Rosetta’s comet resting place
BERLIN: The Rosetta spacecraft ended its historic mission yesterday, crashing on the surface of the dusty, icy comet it spent 12 years chasing in a hunt that provided insight into the early days of the solar system and captured the public’s imagination.
The spacecraft stalked comet 67P/ ChuryumovGerasimenko across more than 6 billion km of space, collecting a treasure-trove of information on comets that will keep scientists busy for the next decade.
Scientists in the European Space Agency control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, clapped and hugged as confirmation of the end of the mission came.
Rosetta completed its freefall descent at the speed of a sedate walk, joining the probe Philae, which landed on the comet in November 2014 in what was considered a remarkable feat of precision space travel.
“It was a good ending,” said Klaus Schiling, who worked on mission planning for Rosetta 27 years ago with prime contractor Airbus. “There were so many ups and downs with this mission.”
The mission managed several historic firsts, such as getting a spacecraft into orbit around a comet and the unprecedented landing of a probe on the surface. A handful of previous spacecraft had snapped pictures and collected data as they flew past their targets.
Rosetta had been subjected to the harsh radiation and extreme temperatures since launching in March 2004 and was unlikely to last much longer.
Before reaching the surface and shutting down, Rosetta’s instruments and camera relayed back data and images, giving scientists insight into the structure of the comet.
That data will reveal information on the side walls of the comet, crucial to understanding how they are formed, as well as on large 100m-wide pits, which scientists believe are key to how the comet releases gas and dust as it is warmed by the sun.
Scientists now believe asteroids, not comets, were primarily responsible for delivering water to Earth and other planets in the inner solar system, possibly setting the stage for life. – Reuters
An artist’s impression of the Rosetta spacecraft .