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Rosetta comet chaser to make last swingby of Earth

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An artist's view of Rosetta cometary probe. Image credit: ESA

PARIS (BNS): Set to begin the last phase of its 10-year journey to the outer Solar System, European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet chaser will swing by Earth on 13 November to pick up orbital energy.

Rosetta’s closest approach to Earth is expected at 08:45 CET (06.45 GMT), according to ESA. This will be the spacecraft’s third Earth swingby and last of four planetary gravity assists. It will provide Rosetta the boost required to continue its journey into the Solar System. The spacecraft is scheduled for a close encounter with asteroid 21 Lutetia in July next year.

The craft will also make several observations of the Earth-Moon system before heading out study comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta is expected to arrive at its final destination in May 2014. There, it will release the Philae lander for in-situ studies on the surface. The spacecraft will then escort the comet on its journey toward the Sun, studying it closely for up to two years.

As it closes in on Earth next month, Rosetta would have travelled almost 4,500 million km since its launch in March 2004. It will speed past Earth at 13.3 km/s, passing above the Indian Ocean near the south of Indonesian island Java.

The gravity-assist will increase the spacecraft's speed by 3.6 km/s with respect to the Sun.

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