This week has been a big one for deep-space exploration, as the European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft Rosetta finally woke from its years-long slumber to prepare a meeting with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The craft has been on its dutiful mission for the last decade, and now this handy website developed by the ESA, Where’s Rosetta?, can give you an idea of the how the journey has gone so far — and where it’s headed in the near future.
The timeline begins on March 3, 2004 — the day after Rosetta launched into space — within Earth’s orbit. From there, it shows the little spacecraft utilizing planets’ gravity to create a wider and wider orbit, pushing itself further into deep space. The simulation also shows the travels of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which orbits in a distinct pattern that Rosetta eventually matches up with.
In addition to showing historical data from the Rosetta mission, the ESA has included the trajectory of the spacecraft. So, excited space nerds can actually view the spacecraft as it approaches and lands on the comet in August of this year. Beyond that initial contact, Rosetta will stay on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it swings past the Sun, collecting materials on the surface with its lander, Philae.
The simulation is beautiful — showing the vast depths of space that Rosetta has already reached — and informative. Rosetta is set to become the first mission to successfully rendezvous with a comet, hopefully unlocking the mysteries of the icy celestial bodies while showing our interstellar capabilities. It’s definitely worth a click, as long as you don’t get lost in space.