European Space Agency’s plucky little probe Rosetta has a date with destiny. On September 30, 2016 ESA mission control will intentionally crash land Rosetta on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s in the pits of Deir El-Medina.
Located in the Ma’at region on 67P’s smaller lobe, the pits of Deir El-Medina haven’t an inkling of Rosetta’s upcoming assisted suicide. Measuring 100 meters wide and 50 meters deep, the pit was chosen as Rosetta’s resting place based on “active” eruptions of gaseous space dust. Rosetta’s forced death spiral will unfold with instruments blazing, her suicidal descent calculated to gather data elusive to orbital diligence alone.
Launched in 2004 with a singular objective – catch comet 67P by August 2014, deploy a probe to the comet’s surface, then settle into observational orbit for two years. Since August 9, 2016 Rosetta has tightened her orbit around 67P, on September 24 her final fly-by could be within a kilometer of the surface. Over the following few days intricate maneuvers will facilitate elliptical orbit becoming a free fall trajectory.
“It’s hard to believe that Rosetta’s incredible 12.5 year odyssey is almost over, and we’re planning the final set of science operations, but we are certainly looking forward to focusing on analysing the reams of data for many decades to come.”
“This pioneering mission may be coming to an end, but it has certainly left its mark in the technical, scientific and public spheres as being one of outstanding success, with incredible achievements contributing to the current and future understanding of our Solar System,” adds Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager.
Linked below, the Rosetta blog – a collection of Rosetta’s legacy from the European Space Agency. Well worth a ponder.