Historic curtain call for Rosetta probe set to land on distant comet

The European Space Agency is set to end its most ambitious mission yet on Friday by landing space probe Rosetta on a comet 720 million kilometres away, in a bid to gather final data before the device goes silent.

Rosetta is scheduled to collide with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at less than walking speed. The end of the mission is expected to be confirmed with 20 minutes of 1120 GMT.

Bowing out more than a dozen years after it was launched into space, Rosetta is to take final pictures and measurements of the rubber duck-shaped cluster of ice and rock, descending into the open pits, where scientists hope find secrets of the body’s interior structure.

Scientists say the device had reached the end of its useful life.

The mission began posting pictures on its official Twitter page early Friday, with one illustrated tweet reading: "Closer & closer: enjoying beautiful contrasts in surface textures of #67P."

ESA engineers believe the Rosetta will land 1-2 kilometres from its lander Philae, which made history in November 2014 when it became the first man-made probe to land on a comet.

Comets are thought to contain the oldest, largely unchanged, matter from the birth of our solar system some 4.6 billion years ago. The end of the mission will be a time for taking stock, with scientists saying that the unveiled secrets of "Churi" are of enormous significance.

Last update: Fri, 30/09/2016 - 10:53
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