Europe’s pioneering Rosetta spacecraft concluded a 12-year odyssey with a controlled crash-landing Friday (Sep 30) onto the comet it has orbited and probed for two years to unravel the secrets of the Solar System’s birth, mission controllers said.Advertisement
“Space missions push the boundaries of science and technology”.
Rosetta spacecraft finished its final mission on her comet, the 67P, today at 5 AM Eastern Time.
In March 2004, the Rosetta space probe launched from Earth as part of a $1 billion European Space Agency (ESA) mission to reach comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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.
The European Space Agency steered the probe toward the four-kilometre-wide comet as slowly as possible (90 centimetres per second, roughly half walking speed) so it could take the unprecedented close-ups.
“With the decision to take Rosetta down to the comet’s surface, we boosted the scientific return of the mission through this last, once-in-a-lifetime operation”, Patrick Martin, the mission’s manager, said in a statement.
‘Should Earth ever be threatened by an asteroid, the experience gained from the Rosetta mission would prove valuable, ‘ he said. Please see our terms of service for more information.
On Thursday evening, the European Space Agency confirmed the spacecraft had started its “collision maneuver”, putting it on course to crash into the comet within 20 minutes of 1040 GMT on Friday.
Rosetta has detected complex forms of carbon not found on Earth, a building block of proteins called glycine, and for the first time phosphorus which is a key component of DNA.
“We could have abandoned it in space or let it bounce off the comet and just switched it off”. Since comets are believed to be made from materials left behind after the formation of the Solar System, the data could reveal what the Universe was like some 4.5 billion years ago.
Rosetta, and its companion Philae lander, have given scientists a trove of information to help shed new light on the beginnings of the solar system. Rosetta arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 and successfully deployed its Philae lander. A handful of previous spacecraft snapped pictures and collected data as they flew past their targets. It’s the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet and escort it as it orbits the sun.