The Rosetta space mission has finally come to an end, confirmed the European Space Agency (ESA). The spacecraft successfully managed to approach Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko and deploy the Philae lander on its surface during its lengthy space mission that stretched beyond a decade.
After becoming the first ever space mission to land a space probe on a comet hurtling through space, the Rosetta mission finally came to an end today. The Rosetta spacecraft joined its brave little space probe on Comet 67P’s surface at about 6.18 a.m. EDT today. According to the ESA, the spacecraft descended at a walking pace. Even during its final descent, the spacecraft managed to collect and beam back scientific data that will continue to keep scientists riveted for years to come.
Confirmation of Rosetta landing on the comet arrived about 40 minutes ago in the form of “abrupt loss of signal,” reported Aviation Week. Scientists at the ESA’s mission control in Darmstadt, Germany hugged each other and celebrated the 12-years-long mission, reported The Guardian.
Confirming the mission’s culmination, Patrick Martin, Rosetta Mission Manager said, “This is it. I can announce the full success of this historic descent of Rosetta to 67P, and I declare hereby the mission operations ended for Rosetta.”
Will Rosetta continue to send data? Surprisingly, ESA managed to gently land the Rosetta spacecraft on Comet 67P. This means the spacecraft could have landed safely without getting destroyed. However, despite surviving the descent on a comet that’s moving faster than a speeding bullet through the vastness of space, Rosetta won’t be sending any more data. This is because the spacecraft’s orientation isn’t optimum for data transmission.
ESA noted that Rosetta won’t be able to point its antenna to Earth, and hence, we won’t be hearing from the spacecraft ever again. Moreover, mission control had sent a command that caused the spacecraft to switch off all systems following the landing. The agency chose to end the mission with dignity, rather than fight to keep an aging spacecraft alive as the comet headed away from the sun and toward Jupiter.
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The 12-year-long mission has managed to achieve several milestones once considered impossible and helped scientists gain significant insight into the mysteries of space. The data sent back by the Philae lander and the Rosetta spacecraft will undoubtedly unravel several more marvels of our universe. So far, the duo has hinted at not only our origins but also the birthplace of the critical components on Earth that help nurture and sustain life.
The Rosetta space mission has significantly expanded our understanding of comets and their icy structures. To date, all the data on these shooting projectiles with mesmerizing tails of ice and space debris has been empirical and visual. However, this mission has offered a whole new and close-proximity perspective of these fleeting visitors from space.
The Rosetta mission found signs of molecular oxygen in the comet’s gas cloud. Astonishingly, the comet also harbored basic ingredients that are absolutely critical for the origin of life, leading many scientists to think the Earth might owe its inhabitants to comets. Space experts are already theorizing that a comet might have deposited the ingredient’s that helped life to take root on Earth. The Rosetta mission also managed to debunk the notion that Earth’s water was delivered by comets. Scientists now theorize it might be an asteroid that set the ball rolling.
"Farewell Rosetta, you've done the job. That was pure science at its best," says mission manager. https://t.co/wsrCmTRCPp— Scientific American (@sciam) September 30, 2016
The Rosetta mission has inspired almost 700 scientific papers so far, and many more are in the pipeline.
[Featured Image by European Space Agency]