After ten years and four billion miles, Rosetta has finally caught up with its comet following a series of spectacular manoeuvres.
The tiny probe is now in orbit within 62 miles (100km) of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko which is travelling at 34,000 mph (55,000 km per hour).
Described as ‘the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever’, Rosetta will spend more than a year analysing the comet to help uncover the secrets to life on Earth.
During the hotly anticipated rendezvous, Rosetta edged closer to its target adjusting its speed so that it was flying beside the comet at a slow walking pace of 1m/sec (2.2mph, 3.6kph).
Mission controllers had to wait a nail-biting 22 minutes to know that the manoeuvre had been successful.
‘I was relaxed today, but when I saw those pictures all my emotions came flooding back,’ mission director Paolo Ferri told MailOnline.
The images reveal stunning close-up details of the comet, which scientists hope to better explain in the coming months.
‘I was impressed that on the neck that connects the two parts of the comet there is something like the side of a mountain.
‘It’s like looking at the Alps on a very high wall. It is incredible.’
Today’s event marks the beginning of a series of weekly thruster burns that will take place every Wednesday and Sunday well into 2015 to keep the spacecraft in orbit around the comet.
Rosetta’s initial orbit will see it travel around the comet in a three-legged triangular path with a small thruster burn at each ‘end’ of the triangle.
Each leg of this triangle is about 62 miles (100km) long, and it will take Rosetta about three or four days to traverse each leg.
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