Rosetta mission set to end with comet landing

The Rosetta mission is set to end on September 30 when the spacecraft will land on the comet it has been studying, the European Space Agency (ESA) said Thursday.

The space probe will join its robotic lander Philae on the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ending the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander to its surface.

Paris-based ESA said Rosetta will descend to the comet and end the mission because of its increasing distance to the sun, which makes it difficult for the space probe to power itself and keep up the bandwidth for transferring scientific data.

"Instead of risking a much longer hibernation that is unlikely to be survivable, and after consultation with Rosetta's science team in 2014, it was decided that Rosetta would follow its lander Philae down onto the comet," ESA said.

On November 12, 2014, after a 10-year flight, Rosetta's lander Philae settled down on the icy dust comet after several bounces more than 500 million kilometres from Earth.

Due to a faulty thruster, the lander did not land in its originally intended location on the comet, which would have provided more sunlight to charge its secondary batteries.

Nevertheless, scientists said it still managed to collect data on comet compounds and surface properties.

ESA scientists said they hope to gather one last burst of data during Rosetta's final descent. When the space probe lands, however, all communication will cease, ESA said.

Last update: Thu, 30/06/2016 - 15:01
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