Rosetta Comet Spacecraft Says Goodbye After 12 Years of Service

image taken by the rosetta comet spacecraft

The Rosetta Comet Spacecraft will be saying goodbye on Friday. The probe is scheduled to crash into the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This marks the grand finale of a 12-year long mission. NASA TV will broadcast the crash live.

Confirmation that the Rosetta Comet Spacecraft has successfully reached its target will take about 40 minutes to reach earth. The ship and the comet are about 447 million miles away from our home planet. Which makes this event all the more impressive, and worth spectating.

The probe works on solar energy. As the comet and the probe fly further and further away from the sun, towards Jupiter, it will be harder for the Rosetta Comet Spaceship to get the power it needs to function.

This is why the European Space Agency (ESA) decided it’s best to end the ship’s mission, in a controlled impact, rather than let it drift off into space.

According to Alan Fitzsimmons, professor at Queens University, the Astrophysics Research Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the scientists will try to set Rosetta down as gently as possibly. But Fitzsimmons mentioned that the ship will not be able to land properly. Researchers did not design it with that in mind. Furthermore, he added that they will probably lose contact when the ship touches down.

Rosetta will continue to transmit information for as long as it can. But according to Fitzsimmons, the real hard work is only just beginning. Once the Rosetta Comet Spacecraft ceases to communicate, scientists will have to start working on all of the data they’ve collected.

The Rosetta Comet Spacecraft Was a Genuine Trailblazer

The Rosetta mission started in 2004. The probe made a loop towards its destination, the not very sexy-sounding Comet 67P. it took the Rosetta Comet Spacecraft four years to reach its destination. In August 2014, it became the first ship to orbit a comet in the history of spaceflight.

Later that year, it added another first to its list of accomplishments. Rosetta launched a lander named Philae on the surface of the comet. The lander, which was about the size of a washing machine, was the first such craft to move around a comet’s surface. Unfortunately, something went wrong with Philae. Its anchoring mechanism failed, and the small lander bounced around until it finally stopped in an area of the comet where researchers couldn’t reach it.

It did manage to collect some 60 hours’ worth of data, including some very impressive snapshots of its surroundings. In spite of this minor setback, Fitzsimmons declared that the Rosetta mission was a resounding success.

Rosetta managed to scan the core of the comet using radar. It also discovered that there was ice on the surface of the comet, and even detected the presence of amino acids. More than that, it managed to provide researchers with an incredibly detailed account of the changes which occurred during the comet’s voyage, and the materials it released as it zipped through space. A unique and unprecedented look at the life of a comet.

He stated that, together, the Rosetta Comet Spaceship and its companion, Philae, could revolutionize our understanding of how comets appear, and how they work. This information could even lead us to a better understanding of our own origins. Since both these comets, and our own home came from the same solar nebula, over 4.5 billion years ago.

Image Source: European Space Agency