1 minute read
1 Oct 2016
6:01 am

Rosetta arrives in comet tomb


Spacecraft’s science-gathering mission comes to an end.

A handout picture released by the European Space Agency (ESA) on 13 November 2014 shows the panoramic view created from the first two CIVA images, confirming that Rosetta's lander Philae is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the lander's three feet can be seen in the foreground. The 100-kilogram probe touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, seven hours after separating from its mothership Rosetta half a billion kilometres from Earth. Philae's task is to collect images and samples from the dusty iceball, which will give clues about the origins of the solar system. EPA

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft was heading for a mission-ending crash into the comet it has stalked for two years yesterday – a dramatic conclusion to a 12-year odyssey to demystify our solar system’s origins.

Sent by ground controllers on a leisurely, 14-hour freefall, the space pioneer was engaged in a last-gasp spurt of science-gathering on the 19km journey to its icy comet tomb.

The moment of impact will be 10.38am GMT, give or take two minutes, the European Space Agency said after overnight measurements allowed it to narrow down the expected time of death. Confirmation will arrive 40 minutes later, the time it takes for a message to travel between Rosetta and Earth, when the spacecraft’s signal fades from ground controllers’ computer screens.

“Everything is going according to plan,” project scientist Matt Taylor said hours before the impending end. The craft has been sending back close-up shots of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and “we’re seeing some really nice images,” he said. “We just wait for the end now.”