Asteroid Lutetia as viewed by the Rosetta spacecraft on July 10, 2010.
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Image courtesy of ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.
Rosetta Flyby of Asteroid Lutetia
Rosetta is a European space probe. It was launched in 2004. Its main mission is to fly to a comet and land on it. Along the way it has flown by two asteroids. In July 2010 it flew by an asteroid named Lutetia.
Lutetia is the largest asteroid visited by a spacecraft so far. The average diameter of Lutetia is 96 km (60 miles). Lutetia isn't round like a planet. It is quite lumpy. Rosetta beamed some great pictures of Lutetia back to Earth.
Rosetta was zooming along at a speed of 15 km/s (9 miles/sec or more than 33,000 mph) when it passed Lutetia! It flew within 3,160 km (1,964 miles) of the asteroid. In 2008 Rosetta flew by another asteroid named Steins. Rosetta is now on its way to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It won't get there until 2014! If everything works out, Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to land on a comet.
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