Final Image From Rosetta Spacecraft

Posted: Sep 30 2017, 1:40pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 30 2017, 1:44pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Final Image from Rosetta Spacecraft
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team

Scientists unexpectedly recover last image from Rosetta craft before it crashed into the comet 67P surface

European Space Agency has just pieced together Rosetta spacecraft’s last image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken shortly before the spacecraft crashed-landed into the comet’s surface and provides a close-up look at its rocky terrain.

Launched in 2004, the ESA's Rosetta spacecraft travelled more than six billion kilometers to reach comet 67P, which is located some 250 million miles away from Earth.

On September 30, 2016, Rosetta’s historic probe was concluded with a controlled touchdown of the spacecraft on a region of the comet known for its ancient pits. Rosetta spent 12 years orbiting around the comet 67P and returned a wealth of detailed images and scientific data as it drew closer to its surface. It gave the opportunity to study the comet’s gas, dust and plasma environment in an unprecedented detail and continued beaming back data until last year.

However, Rosetta camera team unexpectedly found another image data and was able to reconstruct it. Though it was not as clear as the previous final descent image, it was still a huge surprise for scientists.

"The last complete image transmitted from Rosetta was the final one that we saw arriving back on Earth in one piece moments before the touchdown at Sais," said Holger Sierks, principal investigator for the OSIRIS camera at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany.

"Later, we found a few telemetry packets on our server and thought, wow, that could be another image."

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ESA decided to end Rosetta mission due to the spacecraft's ever-increasing distance from the sun. The spacecraft was lacking energy needed to continue travelling and to operate its instruments. Communications with the craft also became increasingly difficult over time. But Rosetta certainly achieved its mission objects and became the first spacecraft to study a comet.

“We’ve operated in the harsh environment of the comet for 786 days, made a number of dramatic flybys close to its surface, survived several unexpected outbursts from the comet, and recovered from two spacecraft ‘safe modes’,” said operations manager Sylvain Lodiot in an earlier statment.

“It’s a fitting end to Rosetta’s incredible adventure to follow its lander down to the comet.”

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