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Sunday, July 11, 2010

ESA Rosetta Spacecraft Investigates Asteroid

Image of the asteroid 21 Lutetia by the ESA Rosetta probe during closest approach. Image courtesy the European Space Agency.

The above photo is of the asteroid Lutetia taken by the ESA Rosetta mission yesterday.

Lutetia was discovered by Hermann Goldschmidt on November 15, 1852 and is the Latin name for Paris. The asteroid is about 130 miles in diameter on it's longest axis and is the largest asteroid to date that has been visited by a space probe.

Rosetta was launched in 2004. Its main mission is to fly alongside the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 and carries a smaller probe that will attempt to land on the comet during its investigation.

Here is a replay of the live webcast of the flyby:

Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at

More information on the Rosetta mission can be found at the ESA Rosetta website and blog.

This is an amazing time to be alive as we discover more about the universe around us. Perhaps one day, there will be humans making the journey for further scientific and economic exploitation themselves. I hope that will be during my lifetime...


An interesting piece of trivia: In 2007, an amateur astronomer spotted the Rosetta spacecraft and thought he had discovered an asteroid! Others also observed the spacecraft and it was given the designation  2007 VN84 and would approach to within 6,000 miles of the earth. It was soon sorted out that the object was actually the ESA spacecraft Rosetta, which was making a flyby of the earth for a gravity assist to help it on its way to the asteroid belt.

Source: The Planetary Society Blog
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