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Decade Chase Ends As Rosetta Spacecraft Catches Its Comet

Update Date: Aug 06, 2014 12:13 PM EDT

After a journey of more than four billion miles in 10 years, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination on Wednesday for the first extended examination of a comet. 

"It is like driving a car or a bus on a motorway for 10 years," said Andrea Accomazzo, the flight director, at a post-rendezvous news conference, according to The New York Times. "Now we've entered downtown. We're downtown and we have to start orienting ourselves. We don't know the town yet, so we have to discover it first."

In the coming months, the spacecraft and its comet will plunge together toward the sun. 

Experts said, the spacecraft is now flying triangles in front of the comet and about to begin the job of mapping it which is necessary to calculate the comet's irregular microgravity field. 

In the coming several weeks, the spacecraft will settle into an orbit of 30 kilometers and it might attempt orbits even closer than that, experts added.

 "This morning, we hit a milestone, an important milestone of this mission," said Laurence O'Rourke, a member of its science team.

"But this mission isn't just about arriving at a comet," he went on. "It's about studying the comet. It's about placing a lander on a comet, but again the mission does not end there. The science continues. We're trying to follow this comet all around its orbit."

The $1.7 billion Rosetta mission will provide a much longer, much closer look at one comet, NYT mentioned.  

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