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After spending a week circling Comet 67P/C-G at a distance of about 12 miles, engineers have now decided they can move Rosetta in to only six miles.
A series of manoeuvres will reduce Rosetta’s distance from its current 18.6 km orbit (taking 7 days) to an intermediate orbit approximately 18.6 x 9.8 km (with a period of about 5 days). From there the orbit will be circularised at about 9.8 km radius, with a period of approximately 66 hours on 15 October, and the mission will enter the “Close Observation Phase” (COP). This will provide even higher resolution images of the landing site in order to best prepare for Philae’s challenging touch-down. The new orbit will also allow a number of Rosetta’s science instruments to collect dust and measure the composition of gases closer to the nucleus.