ESA's Rosetta

Rendezvous with a Comet

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft will unlock the mysteries of the oldest building blocks of our Solar System – the comets. Rosetta will allow scientists to look back 4600 million years to an epoch when no planets existed and only a vast swarm of asteroids and comets surrounded the Sun.

Rosetta will also help to discover whether comets contributed to the beginnings of life on Earth. Comets are carriers of complex organic molecules, delivered to Earth through impacts, and perhaps played a role in the origin of life. Moreover, volatile light elements carried by comets may also have played an important role in forming Earth's oceans and atmosphere.

The Rosetta mission will achieve many historic landmarks:

  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to orbit a comet's nucleus.
  • It will be the first spacecraft to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the inner Solar System.
  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to examine from close proximity how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the Sun.
  • Shortly after its arrival at the comet, the Rosetta Orbiter will dispatch a robotic Lander for the first controlled touchdown on a comet nucleus.

Rosetta Milestones:

  • Mar 2, 2004: Rosetta launched
  • Aug 6, 2014: Rosetta arrives at comet
  • Sep 15, 2014: Site for Rosetta's lander Philae is selected
  • Nov 2014: Philae to land on comet

» Learn more about the ESA's Rosetta mission

Rosetta and Philae at comet
Artist's concept of Rosetta and Philae at comet.
Credit: Spacecraft: ESA–J. Huart, 2014; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA