The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to launch an interceptor spacecraft towards a comet in the outer layer of our solar system. The spaceship is proposed by a team of researchers from the UK, and it costs around €150m to build. The Comet Interceptor spacecraft is set to launch in 2028, becoming ESA’s first F-class mission. The spacecraft will travel to the L2 Lagrange point, where it will wait patiently to meet with the comet.
Along with the spacecraft, the space agency’s Ariel satellite will also take off. The satellite’s mission will be to explore the atmosphere of planets outside the solar system.
Surprisingly, Comet interceptor does not have a clear target yet. For now, it will be placed at the L2 point until it meets the right comet. Then, the spacecraft will use its equipment, which includes cameras and a mass spectrometer, to analyze the characteristics of the comet and help astronomers build a picture of its composition and shape. The main goal of the mission is to observe the changes that a comet goes through when it enters the inner solar system.
The European Space Agency Plans To Launch A Comet Interceptor Spacecraft In 2028
Geraint Jones from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, explains the importance of the mission: “We’ve learned a huge amount about [comets]; however, all of these past targets have been affected by their numerous passages past the Sun. A comet nearing the Sun for the first time since its formation should be pristine and unprocessed, providing much greater insight into the nature of these ancient bodies and their role in the formation of Earth and the other planets.”
The most exciting possible outcome of the mission will be if the spacecraft intercepts a comet or asteroid that originates from beyond our solar system.
According to experts, the first mission that targets an object from outside of our solar system would offer scientists essential data that could help them determine the exact nature of these objects and how they might be altered during their voyage through the universe.