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Rosetta mission ends with comet crash

Rosetta's last image Rosetta's last image
Carmela Zoppi | 08 Ottobre, 2016, 23:24

The European Space Agency is ending the mission because 67P is racing toward the outer solar system, out of range for the solar-powered spacecraft.

The European Space Agency will share those pictures starting on 30 September, through its special picture page and on its social media channels.

This is the way the Rosetta ends: not with a bang, but with a slow-motion crash.

"We've operated in the harsh environment of the comet for 786 days, made a number of dramatic flybys close to its surface, survived several unexpected outbursts from the comet", said Sylvain Lodiot, an ESA operations manager.

It took 12 years, but Rosetta travelled the 6 billion kilometres needed to catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The ESA lost communication with it, even if they eventually regained it for a short period of time in the summer of 2015.

Earlier British planetary scientist Professor Monica Grady, from the Open University, who was closely involved in the design of the Philae lander, said she had "very mixed feelings" about the death of Rosetta.

By crashing on 67P, Rosetta is following the journey taken by its famous little lander, Philae, the first probe ever to make a controlled landing on a comet.

The Rosetta spacecraft's final path as it heads for a collision overnight Friday with the comet it has been orbiting for two years. "It has been exciting to have everyone along for the ride".

In its final few minutes the probe sent back images of dazzling detail from above the comet's surface, adding to the unprecedented store of data the endeavour has already accumulated.

Comets like 67P are thought to contain primordial material preserved in a dark space deep freeze.

Europe's most ambitious space mission will come to an end within hours as Rosetta is ordered to crash into the comet it has been circling for the last two years. Rosetta's instruments analyzed the signature of water vapor on 67P and determined the comet's water wasn't a match for the structure of Earth's H2O.

With nearly two dozen scientific instruments between them, Rosetta and its lander gathered a wealth of data about 67P that have already given researchers significant new insights into the composition of comets and the formation of celestial bodies.

"Mission Complete" the space agency tweeted in a variety of languages as the world watched live as the spacecraft slowly descended towards its final resting place.

As scientists left the control room for the probe, they left a note on the door.

The craft could remain crumpled and lifeless on the surface of the comet for millions of years, as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko continues its circuits of the solar system.

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