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Rosetta may be crashing, but its legacy lives on here on Earth

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ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014, following a ten-year journey through the Solar System after its launch on 2 March 2004. The Philae lander was sent down to the surface of the comet on 12 November 2014.

Artist's impression of Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/Churyumov--Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016. Credit: Copyright ESA/ATG medialab
Artist’s impression of Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016.
Credit: Copyright ESA/ATG medialab

After two years living with the comet, returning an unprecedented wealth of scientific information during its closest approach to the Sun, Rosetta and the comet are now heading out beyond the orbit of Jupiter again.

Travelling further from the Sun than ever before, and faced with a significant reduction in solar power that it needs to operate, Rosetta’s destiny has been set: it will follow Philae down onto the surface of the comet.

Confirmation of the end of mission is expected from ESA’s main control room at 11:20 GMT or 13:20 CEST +/- 20 minutes on 30 September, with the spacecraft set on a collision course with the comet the evening before.

The final hours of descent will enable Rosetta to make many once-in-a-lifetime measurements, including analysing gas and dust closer to the surface than ever possible before, and taking very high resolution images of the comet nucleus, including the open pits of the Ma’at region where the spacecraft is expected to make its controlled impact.

These data should be returned during the descent up to the moment of final impact, after which communication with the spacecraft will not be possible.

Web Source: ESA.

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