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Why The European Space Agency Wants To Visit A Comet
Since comets could provide details on how the solar system was formed, the European Space Agency (ESA) wants to further study these chunks of dust and ice orbiting the sun by visiting one with a spacecraft. The mission, named Comet Interceptor, completed its study phase, and in June 2022, the ESA announced it was looking for a contractor to start building the craft.
For the mission, the ESA will build a main spacecraft along with two probes, which will allow the comet to be observed from different views in order to create a 3D picture of it. ESA will work with the Japanese space agency JAXA, a partner experienced in building a space probe for this kind of task thanks to its ground-breaking mission to visit asteroid Ryugu.
The plan is to build the Comet Interceptor, launch it into orbit around the sun at the L2 Lagrange point, wait for a suitable comet on its way into the solar system, and then direct the Interceptor to meet it. With the selection of a contractor to build the craft, the ESA hopes to launch Comet Interceptor, along with the exoplanet hunter mission Ariel, in 2029.