Rosetta spacecraft set for smash landing

The comet chaser was never created to land, but in the course of its mission scientists decided they would make the last bold move in an attempt to gather one final set of information from the comet. Confirmation will arrive 40 minutes later, the time it takes for a message to travel between Rosetta and Earth, when the spacecraft's signal fades from ground controllers' computer screens.

The view is slightly blurry - Sierks said his team still has to sharpen the images - but the gravelly surface of the comet is clearly visible. We were given some fascinating images thanks to the spacecraft, but alas, the mission has reached its end.

"Farewell Rosetta, you've done the job", Patrick Martin, Rosetta mission manager, said during a mission webcast. It's the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet and escort it as it orbits the sun.

The information includes final snapshots taken of the comet's surface.

Rosetta is the first spacecraft to orbit a comet and the first to deploy a lander, Philae, in November 2014.

The data Rosetta has gathered during its journey has shown scientists how comets change as they move closer and further away from the sun.

This is the way the Rosetta ends: not with a bang, but with a slow-motion crash.

In a planned crash-landing, the Rosetta spacecraft ended its observation mission of Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko Friday morning, September 30. Since comets are believed to be made from materials left behind after the formation of the Solar System, the data could reveal what the Universe was like some 4.5 billion years ago.

Before finding its final resting place on the comet's surface, Rosetta will collect a little more data during its descent.

Flight operations director Andrea Accomazzo, who worked on Rosetta for almost 20 years, confessed "of course there is a bit of sadness" after a "long, long" professional investment.

Rosetta's solar-powered lander, Philae, ran into trouble after touching down in a shadowy chasm in 2014.

The Rosetta spacecraft followed Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko through the Solar System for two years until it reached the sun and became active on August 6, 2014.

The craft could remain crumpled and lifeless on the surface of the comet for millions of years, as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko continues its circuits of the solar system.

"At the time we were just building a spacecraft", he said.

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