PARIS, August 06. /ITAR-TASS/. The Rosetta automatic interplanetary comet-chasing probe of the European Space Agency (ESA) is due to enter the orbit of Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) on Wednesday after ten years of space flight, upon covering a total of about 6.4 billion kilometres. Ignition of the spacecraft propulsion plant for the key maneuver is scheduled for 11:00, Central European time. The operation will take six minutes and 26 seconds, after which the spacecraft will get stabilised at a distance of about 100 km from the comet's surface.
Until the present time, none of space probes ever entered a comet's orbit, although spacecraft repeatedly flew around such celestial bodies. Sylvan Llodio, researcher who is in charge of space flights under the Rosetta mission at ESA, pointed out, "At a distance of 100 km, the phase of approach will be completed and it can be reckoned that we have reached the comet".
Llodio said the principal task of the present stage of the mission is to get acquainted in greater detail with the comet's characteristics so as to prepare for next and most important phase of the project: a search for a place for Philae Lander to alight. It remains unknown what is the intensity of the emission of gases and vapour above the comet's surface under the impact of sunlight. "In the coming week researchers are to solve many a complex task to get to know the comet better and find a place for landing," Llodio added.