The European Space Agency (ESA) has concluded its Rosetta mission as planned, with a controlled impact on the comet it had been probing for over two years. 

Rosetta fell from an altitude of about 19km onto the surface of Comet 67P.

Confirmation of the conclusion of the mission arrived at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany at 11:19 GMT following the loss of Rosetta’s signal upon impact due to the descent.

During its fall, Rosetta closely studied the comet’s gas, dust and plasma environment, and took high-resolution images of the comet.

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European Space Agency science director Alvaro Giménez said: “Thanks to a huge international, decades-long endeavour, we have achieved our mission to take a world-class science laboratory to a comet to study its evolution over time, something that no other comet-chasing mission has attempted.

“Rosetta was on the drawing board even before ESA’s first deep-space mission, Giotto, had taken the first image of a comet nucleus as it flew past Halley in 1986.

“The mission has spanned entire careers, and the data returned will keep generations of scientist busy for decades to come.”

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Rosetta, which was launched in 2004, completed an eight billion kilometre journey covering three Earth flybys and one at Mars, and had two asteroid encounters.

Enduring 31 months in deep-space hibernation on the most distant part of its journey, the craft woke up in January 2014 and finally arrived at the comet in August 2014.

"The mission has spanned entire careers, and the data returned will keep generations of scientist busy for decades to come."

With its lander, Philae, Rosetta studied the comet’s evolution during the closest approach to the Sun and beyond.

ESA decided to end the mission because Rosetta and the comet were heading out beyond the orbit of Jupiter again, thereby leaving little scope for the spacecraft to receive power from the Sun to operate.

there was also an imminent month-long period when the Sun is close to the line-of-sight between Earth and Rosetta, which would mean that communications with the craft would have become increasingly more difficult.


Image: Comet landing site. Photo: courtesy of ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.