Europe's Rosetta spacecraft, currently three months into its ten-year, 7 billion kilometre pursuit of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has successfully completed its first scientific mission by taking detailed images of another comet, Comet Linear.
Rosetta captured the images from a distance of nearly 100 million kilometres using its Osiris (optical, spectroscopic and infrared remote imaging system) camera. Three further instruments were then used jointly to study the comet's coma - the thin atmosphere surrounding the nucleus - which confirmed the presence of water molecules.
European Space Agency (ESA) mission scientists are now close to completing the first phase of commissioning activities, which included the test activation of all instruments onboard Rosetta and its comet lander, Philae.
Joint activation of the three imaging instruments had not been planned until later this year, but scientists at mission control decided that it could be attempted, given the successful results of their individual tests on Rosetta and its instruments.
After completing the initial commissioning phase, Rosetta will go into a 'cruise mode' during which time very little will happen onboard the spacecraft, until September, when the second phase of commissioning will get underway.
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