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Rosetta ends its historic 12 year mission

On Friday, European Space Agency‘s (ESA) spacecraft Rosetta ended its mission, crashing into Jupiter-family comet67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Rosetta is the first spacecraft to orbit a comet; it traveled in space for 12 years and about 8 billion kilometres (about five billion miles).

The ESA’s Darmstadt, Germany control centre ceased to receive signals from the spacecraft, confirming the Rosetta mission’s end, at 11:19 UTC. Mission controllers said it was traveling about 90 centimeters per second on impact (two miles per hour), about a walking pace.

Rosetta may have rested smoothly on the comet’s surface or bounced back into space, as the Philae lander did in 2014, there is no way to confirm either.

Almost two years ago, in November 2014, Rosetta successfully landed a probe called Philae onto 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, with amongst its goals better understanding how the Solar System was formed. Philae’s discoveries included the presence of molecular oxygen and nitrogen on the comet. It also discovered water on the comet which, according to the scientists, had a different distribution of hydrogen isotopes from the water on earth.

The spacecraft studied the gas, dust, and plasma immediately surrounding the comet during its final approach.

ESA’s director general Johann-Dietrich Wörner said, “Rosetta has entered the history books once again[…] Today we celebrate the success of a game-changing mission, one that has surpassed all our dreams and expectations, and one that continues ESA’s legacy of ‘firsts’ at comets.”

From Wikinews under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence

 

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