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The European Space Agency says that after a 10-year journey taking in some 3.5 billion miles, its Rosetta spacecraft has entered into orbit around a comet known as 67P.

Here's why this is exciting: The Rosetta will travel with the comet for the next year and a half, taking pictures and and sampling the comets chemicals as they travel together toward the sun. This journey marks the first time a spacecraft has done more than a quick hello with a comet.

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Rosetta "gives you a front-seat, ride-along vision of what the comet's going to do and how a comet works," says Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor of the European Space Agency, which is mounting the mission. "This is really a big leap forward."

As the two head toward the sun together, the growing warmth will waken the comet. Its glowing halo will expand, it will sprout several tails and Rosetta will be there to watch the whole process — another first.

Watch the rendezvous live at rosetta.esa.int.

Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY

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