Comets have been a source of fear and fascination for millennia, but it was not until 2014 that the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe became the first to orbit a comet and land a module on its surface. The pioneering craft was given its name in the hope that it would help us to decipher the history and science behind these mysterious space bodies.
Built by a multinational team and designed to operate under the most challenging conditions, Rosetta was launched in 2004 and took ten years to reach its carefully selected destination: the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, only 4 kilometres in diameter. Equipped with multiple cameras, the probe took photographs from its launch to its mission’s end. These range from shots of the Earth receding into the distance, to fly-by images of Mars and the asteroid belt, and on to the comet itself, where Rosetta’s lander module Philae, a laboratory in miniature, was sent to the surface to carry out a closer analysis.
The comet’s fragile landscapes of ice and minerals are captured here in all their otherworldly beauty: rugged surfaces, blankets of soft dust, towering cliffs and dramatic outbursts jetting into the darkness of space. This wealth of unforgettable images is accompanied by an expert overview of the Rosetta project’s history and what its findings mean to the scientists striving to understand the creation of our solar system.