Rosetta comet mission ends with spectacular touchdown on 67P

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The European Space Agency’s (ESA) £1 billion Rosetta space probe, in its final job, crashed onto the surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet which it has been orbiting since 2014.

As it closed in for the inevitable impact, the probe sent out spectacular images of the comet’s surface bidding farewell.

The Rosetta space probe, the crashed itself into the 4km-wide ball of ice and dust at around 11.38 am UK time on Friday. The probe was launched with an aim to study the ancient celestial body for in-turn studying the origin of our solar system. The probe, during the mission, detected the presence of organic compound molecules on its surface.

Following the probe’s two year long mission, scientists at the ESA set the orbiter on a collision course with the comet on Thursday evening, and mission controllers transmitted the final commands – 249 lines of instructions – to the orbiter.

ESA decided to be decommission the orbiter- taking the increasing distance of comet from Sun – into account. As the comet is moving away form Sun, Rosetta’s panels will not be able to generate power required to keep the probe functioning. The probe sent out high resolution images of the comet’s surface form different altitudes while it was plunging down on the comet.

Following the impact, Rosetta will join its lander ‘Philae’ which it had sent down on to the comet in 2014. Later in July 2015, mission control lost contact with Philae after it reportedly got stuck on a darker region of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Though the descent velocity in not more than 1.1 miles per hour, it is speculated that Rosetta’s integral systems will not survive the crash as it is not designed for landing.

Image courtesy: ESA
Image courtesy: ESA

Rosetta could remain lifeless on the comet for many more millions of years while the comet would drift away into deep space.

Also read: Earthlings, Welcome to Jupiter!

Anyway, if any alien life forms ever discover Rosetta on the comet, then it will also find the Rosetta disc, preserved beneath the spacecraft’s thermal blankets. Aliens may find 1000 different languages micro-etched, a comprehensive cultural archive gathered by the San Francisco-based Long Now Foundation. Each page of text, which is miniaturized and etched onto the disk as an image, requires only a microscope to be read.

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