Don't miss this beautiful waltz-like video of European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft swing-by of Mars, marking a milestone on its 4.4 billion-mile journey.The spacecraft came within 155 miles of as it gained a critical gravity assist from the red planet, helping it change direction on its complex path to comet Churyumov Gerasimenko. It will orbit the comet and make observations for about two years as the comet approaches the Sun. Rosetta will also release a small lander packed with scientific instruments to make the first-ever landing on the surface of a comet.
Rosetta will be the first space mission to journey beyond the main asteroid belt and rely solely on solar cells for power generation, rather than the traditional radio-isotope thermal generators. The new solar-cell technology used on the orbiter's two giant solar panels allows it to operate over 800 million kilometres from the Sun, where sunlight levels are only four percent of those on Earth.
The Paris-based ESA said Rosetta is now moving toward Earth, its next destination planet, whose gravitational energy Rosetta will exploit in November to gain acceleration and continue its 10-year journey to the comet that it will reach in 2014. Posted by Jason McManus.