Asteroid Flyby July 10—European Probe Closing In
Rosetta spacecraft should offer glimpse into solar system's "distant memory."
At 12:10 p.m. ET on Saturday, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is expected to skim within 1,964 miles (3,162 kilometers) of the surface of an asteroid known as 21 Lutetia.
Racing past the space rock at about 33,554 miles (54,000 kilometers) an hour, Rosetta will snap a series of pictures and collect data on the asteroid's chemical makeup, magnetic field, mass, and density.
(Related: "Japan's 'Falcon' Spacecraft Returns—Asteroid Dust On Board?")
Astronomers hope the fresh influx of data will help unlock some of the mysteries surrounding the birth of our solar system. That's because asteroids are thought to be material left over from the formation of the planets about 4.5 billion years ago.
Some of the space rocks are most likely