It arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ten years later.
The Rosetta mission which has entered history books by landing the first man-made object, the Philae lander, on the surface of a comet, was originally scheduled to end in December this year.
It was supposed to stop tracking the comet this Christmas, but a meeting at ESA – where scientists discussed the benefits of following the comet as it finally heads away from the sun – saw Rosetta get a stay of execution.
“By comparing detailed “before and after” data, well have a much better understanding of how comets evolve during their lifetimes”. The spacecraft is also working with a limited fuel supply and will be racing away from the Sun (which powers the electronics) by then, so crashing it into the comet may just be the most efficient way to spend the rest of its mission.
“As the activity diminishes post-perihelion, it should be possible to move the orbiter much closer to the comet’s nucleus again, to make a detailed survey of changes in the comet’s properties during its brief ‘summer, ’” ESA said. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is presently close to the sun’s line-of-sight, will make its closest approach to the star at the center of our solar system on August 13.
Mission may end with a landing on Comet 67P. The extension of the Rosetta mission provides scientists a better idea of the behavior of the comet when it travels in space, providing the observatories on earth with complementary context too.
“Most demanding, but most interesting, will be getting a sample with the drill and investigating it with instruments like Ptolemy, but that’s not something we’ll do soon, because it needs fully recharged batteries”, Ulamec said.
That’s not to say there won’t be some regrets at Rosetta’s demise among the scientists who’ve directed the spacecraft for so long. “To know that we are going to be getting closer to a comet than we’ve ever got is also quite wonderful”. Later, the Rosetta deployed Philae Lander which went into hibernation and woke up recently to start contact with the spacecraft again. The agency confirmed that the probe was able to send a signal back to Earth after its solar panels absorbed enough light from the Sunday.
This image was taken by Philae’s down-looking descent ROLIS imager when it was about 40 m above the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In a pair of two-minute contacts 17 minutes apart, it delivered more housekeeping and status data.
“It’s going to be an adventure – and a very nice one at that”, said O’Rourke.
According to the statement from ESA, Rosetta would likely spiral down to the surface of Comet 67P “over a period of about three months”, and would be able to continue science operations during that descent.
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