UPDATE: 8 a.m. EDT — Rosetta’s official Twitter account announced the completion of its mission in dozens of langauges. It also shared the last picture it took of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko before it crashed into it, just 51 meters (167 feet) from the surface.
UPDATE: 7:10 a.m. EDT — The European Space Agency confirmed that Rosetta touched down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and then declared the "operations complete" after signal from the former comet-orbiting spacecraft was lost.
UPDATE: 6:40 a.m. EDT — While scientists at the European Space Agency wait to receive confirmation of the landing of Rosetta on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, they are continuing to receive scientific data from the comet-orbiting spacecraft.
UPDATE: 6:40 a.m. EDT — The comet-orbiting spacecraft Rosetta has landed on the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it has been orbiting since August 2014. Confirmation of the landing will be received in another 40 minutes, the time taken for the signal to travel from the comet’s current location to Earth.
Meanwhile, the live stream of scientists from the European Space Agency has begun, and can be seen here.
UPDATE: 6:36 a.m. EDT — The time for Rosetta’s crash-landing on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been revised by a minute. The comet-orbiting spacecraft will now make physical contact with its target at 6:39 a.m. EDT.
UPDATE: 6:23 a.m. EDT — The Rosetta spacecraft is now less than 1 km (0.62 miles) away from the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where it will slowly crash-land to end its mission.
UPDATE: 6:15 a.m. EDT — With little time left before it crashes into its chosen spot on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is still sending back precious scientific data back to Earth.
UPDATE: 5:47 a.m. EDT — Rosetta’s Twitter page has pointed out that the comet orbiter is not only taking pictures of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko before it crash-lands on the comet’s surface, it is also continuing to undertake scientific research “right to the end.”
UPDATE: 5:30 a.m. EDT — Rosetta, the comet-orbiting spacecraft, has sent another photograph of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, shortly before it will crash into the comet’s surface in about two hours. The latest photo, taken from less than 6 km (3.7 miles), is the closest photograph yet of the comet.
UPDATE: 4:40 a.m. EDT — Rosetta mission Operations Manager Sylvain Lodiot confirmed that the software patch to make the comet orbiter passive has been executed, and that there was no turning back now.
Just before the confirmation, the spacecraft’s Twitter page said it would not tweet any more after it has sent its last image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
UPDATE: 4:20 a.m. EDT — The Twitter account of Rosetta got somewhat emotional as the spacecraft has less than three hours left before it crashes on the surface of its companion for over two years, the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The European Space Agency also put out an animated video that gives details about Rosetta’s scientific discoveries involving comets, as well as the reason for crashing it into the comet.
UPDATE: 4:20 a.m. EDT — Control for the operations concerning Rosetta’s crash-landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has been handed over to the control room in Madrid from Canberra. The control room in Spain confirmed that things were looking good.
UPDATE: 4:09 a.m. EDT — Rosetta’s camera is busy as the orbiter makes its way to crash-land on the icy surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After more than two years of orbiting the comet, the Rosetta mission will end in about three hours.
UPDATE: 4 a.m. EDT — With about three hours to go for the Rosetta spacecraft to crash-land on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it has been orbiting for over two years, and just about four hours before its controllers at the European Space Agency receive confirmation of the events, the mission control at ESA is all geared up for the big moment.
Sylvain Lodiot, the operations manager for the Rosetta mission, said the spacecraft was at the “point of no return.”
UPDATE: 2:10 a.m. EDT — The comet-orbiting spacecraft Rosetta, which is scheduled to crash into comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in a few hours, sent back another close-up photograph of the comet taken at about 1:30 a.m. EDT Friday.
Rosetta’s last mission is expected to go smoothly, with the mission control team saying things were looking good as the orbiter entered “the critical last phase.”
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) comet probe Rosetta is going to make history yet again as its mission comes to an end Friday when the spacecraft lands on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet it has been orbiting for over two years.
Launched in 2004, the spacecraft carried Philae, a landing module that opened a new chapter in astronomy when, in November 2014, it made physical contact with 67P — a first for humans. However, Philae ran out of power soon, and Rosetta’s communication module linking it to the lander was turned off in July this year. And on Sept. 30, it will join Philae on the icy surface of the comet.
On its official Twitter page, a tweet struck a nostalgic note.
Rosetta’s final “collision maneuver” was executed Thursday evening, shortly before 5 p.m. EDT. Lasting about three minutes, ESA confirmed the successful operation 40 minutes later — the time taken for information to travel from the orbiter to Earth and vice versa.
The spacecraft is heading toward a region named Ma’at with many active pits, which are the points of origin for many of the comet’s dust jets. Specifically within Ma’at, Rosetta is aiming for “a point adjacent to a 130 m-wide, well-defined pit that the mission team has informally named Deir el-Medina, after a structure with a similar appearance in an ancient Egyptian town of the same name.”
The last commands were uploaded to Rosetta at about 10 p.m. EDT Thursday. At about 2 a.m. EDT Friday, the control team saw the commands being executed by the orbiter and confirmed that the OSIRIS camera onboard will be used during the descent. The time of impact has been updated to 6:38 a.m. EDT Friday, according to the probe’s Twitter page. ESA will start a live stream at 6:30 a.m. EDT with updates from mission controllers, which can be watched here.
In a statement issued earlier this month, Sylvain Lodiot, ESA’s spacecraft operations manager, explained the need for flyovers.
“We are already feeling the difference in gravitational pull of the comet as we fly closer and closer: it is increasing the spacecraft’s orbital period, which has to be corrected by small manoeuvres. But this is why we have these flyovers, stepping down in small increments to be robust against these issues when we make the final approach.”
The orbiter’s descent to the comet will be slower than Philae’s, and its more powerful sensors will allow it to collect more scientific data than the lander could.