ESA’s Rosetta mission has come to an end with the spacecraft’s impact on Sept. 30, 2016. (Illustration by ESA/ATG medialab)
Rosetta is down. I repeat; Rosetta is down.
This morning, Sept. 30, 2016, just after 10:39 UTC (6:39 a.m. EDT) ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft ended its mission with an impact onto the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The descent, begun with a final burn of its thrusters about 14 hours earlier, was slow, stately, and deliberate, but even at a relative walking pace Rosetta was not designed to be a lander like its parter Philae and thus ceased operation upon contact with the comet.
With the comet 446 million miles (719 million km) from Earth at the time, the final signals from Rosetta were received 40 minutes after impact, officially confirming mission end.
Launched aboard an Ariane 5 from Kourou, French Guiana on March 2, 2004, Rosetta traveled 4.95 billion miles (7.97 billion km) over 12 and a half years, spending the last 26 months in orbit around comet 67P.
Bittersweet as the mission ending was, Rosetta continued collecting and returning images and science data about 67P up to the very end; it was an opportunity for the spacecraft to go ...