The spacecraft spent 14 hours free falling towards the area of comet Maat and collided with the surface at the speed of a pedestrian.
An innovative mission to the comet of Europe came to a quiet but triumphal conclusion on Friday, completing the activities of the Rosette spacecraft. Now he lay down to rest on the surface of the ice body, around which he flew for two years.
“It was a real fairy tale,” said Roger Bonnet, a former European Space Agency science director.
Rosetta began his journey to comet 67 R / Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2004, accompanied by a small spaceship called Fila. Ten years later, using solar panels, the spacecraft arrived on a comet and became the first probe in history to visit a comet’s orbit.
Rosetta accompanied the comet when it approached the Sun, collecting data in the form of ice and dust, which were released by the surface, and then accompanied it to a deep freeze in the outer solar system. Moving further and further away from the sun, Rosetta lost her ability to charge her batteries. The managers and scientists understood that the mission had come to an end, and despite this, they decided to give the spacecraft the last task. On Friday, the spacecraft came to the surface of 67P, sending a close-up image of the comet's surface a second to the earth before its emergency landing at 7:19 am ET.
Unlike Fila, who landed on the 67P for surface experiments, the Rosetta was not intended for landing.
“Farewell, Rosetta. You did your job, ”said Rosetta Patrick Martin, mission manager, during a webcast. “It was a huge scientific and technical success.”
The last shot was taken by Rosetta at an altitude of about 167 feet (51 meters) above the surface of the comet. Then the unit turned off and fell, joining the long-inactive Filas.
Scientists will study the pictures taken by Rosetta for 10 years and learn as much as possible about how comets are formed and what role they played in the development of life on Earth and, possibly, in another place in the Solar System.
Already, scientists have discovered that comet water has a different chemical composition than terrestrial oceans. This gives rise to the theory that water-rich asteroids have become the cause of life, and not comets, which crashed into the developing planets, preparing the ground for future life. Rosette also discovered that comet contains glycerin, amino acids that are commonly found in proteins, as well as phosphorus, which is found in DNA and cell membranes.
Mission data suggests that comets are the remaining bodies from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago, and not fragments created by larger primitive bodies.
“Just as the Rosetta Stone played a major role in understanding the ancient language and history, the contribution of the Rosetta spacecraft changed our view of the formation of comets and the solar system,” said project scientist Matt Taylor.
“Comets still keep secrets,” he added. “So this is just the beginning.”