That's right: in the result of what had to have been a most baffling mathematical equation, the European Space Agency's Rosetta satellite spent 10 years, 31 months in "sleep mode," took multiple slingshots off Earth and Mars, and traveled 6.4 billion kilometers (3.8 billion miles) to finally fall into orbit with the sexily named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is a scientific first, and if the mission is fully completed, the mission will boast another: the first time a lander will be sent onto a comet.
Currently circling at 100 km, (62 miles), the orbiter will perform several closer passes of the comet before determining the optimal spot to deposit a lander. The ESA hopes that data gathered by the implant will provide insights into just what the 3-by-5 km* chunk of rock and ice was doing at the inception of this solar system.
Scientists believe the shape of the comet could have been the result of either two separate entities melding together or "dramatic erosion." The European nerds have a tight time frame to calculate the landing and collect data, as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is binding into the inner solar system at the speed of 55,000 km an hour. Eventually, its proximity to the sun will complicate data collection. Ultimately, this is further proof that nerds are the coolest people going.
*No more conversions—can't we just switch to the metric system already?
Via Al Jazeera (the TV kind)