Tags: rosetta | orbiter | end | mission | crash | comet

Rosetta Orbiter Nearly Ready to End Mission by Crashing Into Comet

Image: Rosetta Orbiter Nearly Ready to End Mission by Crashing Into Comet

This undated artist sketch released by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows the Rosetta orbiter swooping over the lander soon after touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (Erik Viktor/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 12 Sep 2016 01:40 PM

The Rosetta orbiter is being remembered fondly as it gets ready to end its mission by crash landing into Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the massive space rock the history-making probe has been examining since 2014.

The crash landing will end one of the most successful space missions pulled off by the European Space Agency despite that Philae, the small lander that reached Comet 67P's surface, did not stick its landing two years ago.

Philae, though, still managed to transmit important data about the comet's surface, which researchers believed to be "highly porous," wrote The Guardian. The lander ran out of power shortly after landing because it settled in a shaded area where its solar panels could not revive it.

"Per head, Europeans pay much less than Americans do for their space science," John Zarnecki, of the Royal Astronomical Society, told The Guardian. "Yet with Rosetta we have set the gold standard for comet research. In 20 years, scientists will still be doing PhDs using data from Rosetta."

Rosetta's camera was able to find Philae on the comet Sept. 2 after losing contact with the lander Nov. 14 when it stopped communicating, the European Space Agency wrote in a blog post.

After Rosetta completes one last flyover on Sept. 24, it will start a series of course corrections that will send the spacecraft into the Deir el-Medina pit region, sending back pictures before crashing landing itself on the comet Sept. 30. The landing is expected to end the probe's communication with Earth.

"Although we've been flying Rosetta around the comet for two years now, keeping it operating safely for the final weeks of the mission in the unpredictable environment of this comet and so far from the Sun and Earth, will be our biggest challenge yet," Sylvain Lodiot, the European Space Agency's spacecraft operations manager, said in a statement.

"We are already feeling the difference in gravitational pull of the comet as we fly closer and closer: It is increasing the spacecraft's orbital period, which has to be corrected by small maneuvers. But this is why we have these flyovers, stepping down in small increments to be robust against these issues when we make the final approach," Lodiot continued.

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The Rosetta orbiter is being remembered fondly as it gets ready to end its mission by crash landing into Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the massive space rock the history-making probe has been examining since 2014.
rosetta, orbiter, end, mission, crash, comet
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2016-40-12
Monday, 12 Sep 2016 01:40 PM
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