Rosetta makes controlled comet impact to end mission

It has been more than two years since Rosetta set off to investigate a comet, and now the mission has reached its end. The European Space Agency reports that Rosetta made a planned impact onto the comet, with that last maneuver having taken place at 22:50 CEST. The spacecraft made its collision from an altitude of almost 12 miles. Though researchers on Earth can no longer communicate with Rosetta, the spacecraft did transmit some final data about the comet before impact, and the researchers are waiting to find out what it contains.

The Rosetta mission was launched to investigate the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. We were given some fascinating images thanks to the spacecraft, but alas, the mission has reached its end. In order to get data about the comet from very close to its surface, the team had to cause a deliberate collision; during the spacecraft's descent, its tools gathered important information like data about the plasma, gas and dust close to the surface.

The crash took place on the comet's "Ma'at" region. Researchers consider the mission a success, with ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Worner saying, "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."

The comet was only the last part of Rosetta's many missions; after launching in 2004, the spacecraft went on to orbit around the Sun half a dozen times, flyby the Earth three times, flyby Mars once, and have a pair of "asteroid encounters," before, finally, reaching the comet in January 2014. Overall, the ESA says Rosetta covered almost 8 billion kilometers.

SOURCE: European Space Agency