(Mirror Daily, United States) – Like any good story deserving an epic ending, ESA is planning Rosetta’s grand finale after the spacecraft will make a daring attempt to land on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will be a high-risk mission, but one that can be afforded as a last hurrah.
The European Space Agency (ESA) plans on Rosetta starting the exciting extension of its mission this December, with enough fuel and funding to last until September of next year. After that, they will make an attempt to land the spacecraft onto the comet. The risk is rooted in the fact that it was never designed for such an attempt. With vast solar panels, stretching out 105 feet, they could be crushed upon impact.
However, it could end Rosetta’s journey with a bang if it’s successful.
After scouring our inner solar system for 10 years, the spacecraft made its approach toward comet 67P in 2014. On November 12th, 2014, it carefully dropped the Philae lander upon the rocky surface. The mission was not without its faults and problems. Upon attempting to land on the comet, Philae’s anchoring harpoons and ice screws did not manage to cling to the surface.
It ended stuck against a cliff, which blocked the sun’s access to its solar panels. Without the energy it required, the lander’s battery died in 2 days, yet scientists weren’t completely dejected. They have stated that Philae still managed to capture at least 80% of its intended data, but hoped that it would reawaken regardless when the comet would orbit closer to the sun.
In June of this year, their wish was granted, as the probe managed to transmit information again via its ‘mothership’ Rosetta. However, the signal was intermittent before it eventually went silent on July 9th. Ever since then, ESA has not managed to contact Philae. With Rosetta reaching the end of its capabilities soon enough, they will attempt a second landing on comet 67P.
According to Rosetta’s project scientist, Matt Taylor, they plan on making very close flybys during the end of the mission. Risks are definitely easier when there’s little else at stake. They will be venturing in and out of the comet’s tail, attempting to make contact with the landed Philae once again.
Rosetta’s missions is likely bound to conclude next year, as communication will become impossible once the comet and the sun reach solar conjunction. The spacecraft will be low on fuel, and it was never designed to tolerate a second hibernation through the colder depths of our solar system. Its end is inevitable, though scientists are still discussing it.
There is hope that once Rosetta lands on comet 67P, like Philae did, it will still be able to operate and transmit information. If not, at least its high-tech OSIRIS camera will capture some astounding pictures on its way down.
Image source: natureworldnews.com
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