In just a few days’ time ESA’s Rosetta mission is going to come to a close in a most extraordinary fashion, because the spacecraft is going to slowly, and deliberately crash-land into the comet that it has been orbiting for the past two years.
European Space Agency has reportedly decided to smash the Rosetta (spacecraft) head first into the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The planned crash will take place on Friday at 11:40AM BST (16:10 IST)
Rosetta mission spacecraft is a ground-breaking £1 billion mission launched in 2004 to chase, orbit, and land on a comet. It’s coming to an end this month after 13 years.
The spacecraft spent 10 years chasing comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko almost 500 million miles from Earth, before landing a probe called Philae on it in November 2014.
While Philae landed, Rosetta has stayed alongside the comet analysing the gases of the tail; probing its interior, measuring dust grains and studying its atmosphere and gravity.
The team at ESA was earlier in a debate to decide the better option to end the mission, either to make the Spacecraft descend slowly on the comet and take many photos in the process, or simply to crash it and capture one final shot. However, the first option was cancelled out due to the risk of disturbing more space dust and thereby spoiling the findings.
The Rosetta mission spacecraft will now dive unarrested towards the comet, capturing a final picture of superior quality when it reaches the height of just 15 meters above the comet.
Check out an animation of the orbit during crash:
Once it’s landed – that’s it. No more contact with Rosetta mission spacecraft and all its equipment will be turned off.
Here’s a run-down of its final moments. All times are BST.
September 24: Rosetta moves into a different orbit in preparation for the final descent.September 29 at 9:50pm: Rosetta manoeuvres itself so it’s on a collision course with Comet 67P. When it’s 19km above the surface it will begin its free-fall and collect its last bits of scientific data.
September 30 at 11:40am: Impact is expected to occur.
September 30 at 12:30pm: Confirmation of impact is expected at mission control due to the 40 minute time-lag between the comet and Earth .
Hardeep Singh Manhas