The European Space Agency's mission to catch and land on a meteor blasted off Tuesday from its South American launch pad. Though the rocket lifted off from the western hemisphere, the ESA's mission control was running the operation from its Darmstadt, Germany, headquarters near Frankfurt. Rosetta is expected to reach an ice-caked comet called 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko in May 2014 and go into orbit around it, inform &to=http://www.washingtontimes.com' target=_blank>WashingtonTimes.com
The two initial attempts to launch Rosetta on 25 and 26 February had to be aborted. On the 26 February, the countdown was stopped 20 minutes early because high-altitude winds could have rained debris down on Kourou if the rocket had blown up in flight. The next day, the launch was cancelled because a chunk of foam had fallen off an insulating layer around the rocket's cryogenically cooled main stage. Arianespace, which cost the mission a year's delay after one of its Ariane-5 rockets self-destructed, needs to prove its reliability in an increasingly competitive launch market.
This is the first mission designed to orbit and land on a comet. Rosetta. During its ten-year exodus, Rosetta will fly three times around the Earth and once around Mars - using the gravitational fields of these planets to sling it into the right path for its meeting with Chury.