Rosetta probe mission ends in comet crash

The Rosetta spacecraft has crash landed onto the surface of the distant comet it has been exploring for the past two years.

A view taken by Rosettas OSIRIS narrow-angle camera of Comet 67P/ChuryumovPicture: AFP / ESA

European Space Agency (Esa) controllers burst into applause when the crunch ending to the £1 billion mission was confirmed at 12.20pm, UK time.

Rosetta had already been lying in its lonely resting place 485 million miles away on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for nearly an hour, because of the 40 minutes it took for radio signals travel to Earth.

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A decision was taken to carry out the “controlled impact” because the comet is taking Rosetta so far from the Sun that soon its solar panels will not be able to generate sufficient power.

Undated handout artist's impression issued by ESA showing Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko.

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The spacecraft came down in the rugged Ma’at region of the comet, which is littered with boulders and deep active pits known to produce jets of gas and dust.

Despite travelling at just 1.1mph the craft was not designed for landing and had no chance of survival.

Esa’s head of mission operations Paolo Ferri said: “I think everybody’s very sad. On the other hand the end of the mission had to come. It was a spectacular way to do it, and we’re quite convinced it was the right thing to do.”

This handout picture released on September 30, 2016 by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows a sequence of the final images captured by Rosetta Picture: ESA

Scientists chose to crash Rosetta on the smaller of the three-mile-long rubber duck-shaped comet’s two lobes, just a few kilometres from where its tiny lander Philae is lodged in a deep crevice.

Rosetta reached comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 6, 2014, after an epic 10-year journey across four billion miles of space.

The spacecraft and its lander, which bounced onto the surface of the comet on November, 2014, have produced a wealth of data providing valuable clues about the origins of the solar system and life on Earth.

Key discoveries include an unusual form of water not common on Earth and carbon-containing organic molecules that are the building blocks of life.

Undated handout artist's impression issued by ESA showing Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko.

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This handout picture released on September 30, 2016 by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows a sequence of the final images captured by Rosetta Picture: ESA