- Title: Scientists, sad to say goodbye to Rosetta after its crash-landing on comet
- Date: 30th September 2016
- Summary: PICTURE OF COMET
- Embargoed: 15th October 2016 15:02
- Keywords: Rosetta comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko crash-landing European Space Agency mission
- Location: DARMSTADT, GERMANY
- City: DARMSTADT, GERMANY
- Country: Germany
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration
- Reuters ID: LVA00251RC2TJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Scientists and researchers closely followed the live signal which showed the last moments of the Rosetta spacecraft on Friday (September 30) as it crashed on the surface of the dusty, icy comet it has spent 12 years chasing in a hunt that has provided insight into the early days of the solar system and captured the public's imagination.
The spacecraft has stalked comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko across more than 6 billion km (3.7 billion miles) of space, collecting a treasure trove of information on comets that will keep scientists busy for the next decade.
The mission managed several historic firsts, such as getting a spacecraft into orbit around a comet and the unprecedented landing of a probe on the surface. A handful of previous spacecraft had snapped pictures and collected data as they flew past their targets.
Scientists in the European Space Agency control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, clapped and hugged as confirmation of the end of the mission came at 1119 GMT.
"I don't feel very well at the moment, it is a very sad moment. I lead it to many missions and this one in particular for 20 years. It was a long mission, such a unique one. It is very sad to lose the signal. Always," Paolo Ferro, Head of Mission Operations at ESO, told Reuters after Rosetta's signal disappeared from monitors.
Before reaching the surface and shutting down, Rosetta's instruments and camera relayed back data and images, giving scientists insight into the structure of the comet.
That data will reveal information on the side walls of the comet, crucial to understanding how they are formed, plus on large 100-metre (300 foot) wide pits, which scientists believe are key to how the comet releases gas and dust as it is warmed by the sun.
"As usual, Rosetta has not disappointed us," Ferri added.
"I feel a sense of accomplishment today, I am proud of my team for pulling this off [...] I think this has been a very emotional moment today," Director of ESA Space Programs, Rolf Densing, said.
Rosetta completed its free-fall descent at the speed of a sedate walk, joining the probe Philae, which landed on the comet in November 2014 in what was considered a remarkable feat of precision space travel.
Data collected by Rosetta and Philae is already helping scientists better understand how the Earth and other planets formed.
For example, scientists now believe that asteroids, not comets were primarily responsible for delivering water to Earth and other planets in the inner solar system, possibly setting the stage for life.
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