Europe’s comet-chasing space probe Rosetta was dipping out of orbit Friday for a slow-motion crash onto the icy surface of the alien world it’s been following for more than a decade.
Scientists sent their final command to the probe late last night, ordering Rosetta to fire its thrusters for 208 seconds and perform a last series of scientific measurements concluding its 12-year mission.
epa05561968 (FILE) A file handout picture released 02 March 2004 by the Eureopan Space Agency (ESA) shows the computer generated image of space probe Rosetta (R) during the approach for landing on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency (ESA) on 29 September 2016 announced it will command its Rosetta spacecraft to a crash-landing onto 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. Rosetta reached the comet's orbit in August 2014 after its launch from Earth in 2004. m
We’re about to crash a £1billion spacecraft head-first into a comet
Jan Woerner, the head of the European Space Agency, said the £1 billion mission was already a success.
If you’re wondering why we should be happy about crashing a £1 billion spacecraft into a comet on purpose – here’s why…
Andrea Accomazzo, the spacecraft operations manager, said the mission had been a huge challenge and should be considered an achievement ‘not just for ESA, but for mankind’.
This handout picture released on September 27, 2016 by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows a computer generated artist's impression of Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko on September 30, 2016. Europe's Rosetta spacecraft was headed for a mission-ending crash on the comet it has stalked for two years, a dramatic conclusion to a 12-year odyssey to demystify our Solar System's origins.
An artist’s impression of Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet
‘Should Earth ever be threatened by an asteroid, the experience gained from the Rosetta mission would prove valuable,’ he said.
So, it could potentially stop us from being wiped out disaster movie-style.
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Phew, £1,000,000,000 is a bargain then, really.
Aside from sending a lander onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014 – a cosmic first – the Rosetta mission has collected vast amounts of data that researchers will spend many more years analyzing.
Scientists have already heralded a number of discoveries about the chemical composition of the comet that provide crucial insights into the formation of the solar system and theories about the origin of life on Earth.
The landing takes place at about 90 centimeters per second – roughly half walking speed – giving Rosetta a chance to snap some unprecedented low-altitude images of the comet that could reveal surface features as small as an inch (2.5 centimeter).