Science

Rosetta Ends 12-Year Journey, Descends on a Comet

By Richmoon , Oct 01, 2016 12:20 PM EDT
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After 12 years of journey in deep space, Rosetta Mission was purposefully ended by a collision with the Comet 67P.

The European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany was very crowded last Friday. People are waiting for the signal from Rosetta mission to stop and it was 1:19 PM, local time, when the space agency presumed that it landed on the surface of the comet.

Rosetta's Emotional Finale

"People are very sad today but I think they really understand how proud we are and how proud they should be that we've pulled this mission off," said Mark McCaughrean, ESA's senior science advisor.

An hour before the planned collision, Rosetta was able to send back a high-resolution image and measurements of the comet taken about 5.8 kilometers above showing a 3.5-meter-wide "goosebumps" that could be building blocks of the dirt-ball. It is described as a rough, croaky surface with larger rocks covering about 10 meters across. Scientists are looking forward to the last data captured to help answer and elucidate many questions raised by the mission.

"They're super-duper," gushed Holger Sierks, the head of the Osiris camera team. "I've got goosebumps just thinking about all this," he told BBC News.

"I can announce the full success of this historic descent of Rosetta towards Comet 67P," said Patrick Martin, manager of the European Space Agency mission. "Farewell Rosetta; you've done the job. That was space science at its best."

Rosetta's 12-Year Extraordinary Mission

Rosetta did many firsts in the history of space exploration, from orbiting a comet which helped scientists understand compositions, characteristics and even the origin of comets, as well as shedding light on how the cloud of dust and gas from which the sun formed also spawned celestial bodies like comets, asteroids, and even planets.

The duck shape comet is currently heading away from the sun which made the Rosetta limited of energy to operate its system. So, instead of putting the probe in hibernation, or let it slowly be put in dormancy, the agency resolute that the venture should try to go out with a bang.

According to Matt Taylor, the ESA project scientist, if Rosetta was sent to sleep for the mean time and it will wake up when Comet 67P will visit again the brighter environment of the solar system, there is no assurance that the technology would still work properly.

ESA Pays Tribute to Rosetta

As the mission came to an end, ESA released a cartoon video presenting Rosetta's final moments.

Rosetta reached Comet 67P in August 2014 after its 10-year trip from Earth. During those times, it lived along with the icy object. It unlocked the secrets about its behavior at the same time, its structure, and chemistry.

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