A mini-laboratory designed and built by Harwell-based RAL Space and The Open University is due to reach an icy comet today.
Mission controllers in Germany are preparing for the crucial six minute 26 second thruster burn that will set the Rosetta probe into orbit around the two-mile (3.2km) wide object at 10am.
It marks the end of the probe’s 10 year journey to the comet which is 250m miles away.
Rosetta’s destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is a misshapen lump of ice and dust swinging in a wide circuit round the Sun at around 34,175 mph.
The mini-laboratory will analyse grain samples from the comet and answer questions about its origins.
Professor Richard Holdaway, director of RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, said: “This is an historic and hugely exciting moment for the Rosetta Mission.
“We are very proud of our involvement and eagerly anticipate receiving the first results.”
For the next 17 months Rosetta, a box-like structure just under 10 feet long with two wing-like solar panels, will remain close to the comet as it heads towards the Sun and heats up, throwing out increasing amounts of gas and dust.
- Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone's contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.
- Send your Letter to the Editor: What do you think? We welcome letters from our readers on a wide variety of subjects and you can send us a letter for publication here
Our top stories
- UPDATE: Three more men arrested in connection with attempted murder after altercation in Banbury
- Oxford United v Swindon Town - UPDATES
- CLARIFICATION: Hygiene report of Delight 2 in Didcot
- Man 'obsessed' with BBC journalist goes on trial after allegedly breaching restraining order against her
- Families urged to consider signing up for organ donation
- Oxford United send match tickets to fans caught up in season ticket delay