The International Rosetta Mission was approved in November 1993 by ESA's Science Programme Committee as the Planetary Cornerstone Mission in ESA's long-term space science programme. The original mission goal was to rendezvous with comet 46P/Wirtanen. As a result of the launch postponement (to March 2004) a new target was selected: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. On its 10 year journey to the comet, the spacecraft has passed close to two asteroids: 2867 Steins (in 2008) and 21 Lutetia (in 2010).
Rosetta was sucessfully launched on 2 March 2004 by an Ariane-5 G+ from Kourou, French Guiana. In order to gain enough orbital energy to reach its target four gravity assists are required: one by Mars and three by Earth. The long mission duration has required the introduction of extended hibernation periods.
The mission falls into several distinct phases:
Rosetta operations are carried out from ESA's Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt. Orbit determination for all mission phases is also performed by ESOC.