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Peek Into ESA Rosetta's Last Words as it Descends to a Comet

Dec 17, 2016 04:43 AM EST
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ESA looks forward to Rosetta comet reaching orbit position closest to sun

Rosetta bid farewell after a fruitful mission in space chasing a comet. The European Space Agency's comet hunter sent its last "words" before its death crash. ESA recently revealed the last bit of information from Rosetta before it officially "died" on Sept. 30.

Rosetta reached the surface of comet Comet 67P also known as Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 30 signaling the end of its mission. The spacecraft officially went offline 40 minutes before touchdown. The last information it managed to gather was gathered during its final descent.

ESA's comet hunter descended to a comet about 720 million kilometers away from the planet. The last messages from the spacecraft consist of navigation "startrackers" or a report describing "large object" blocking the view of Rosetta -- the comet 67P itself, according to a report.

ESA recently reconstructed Rosetta's final hours. Based on the experiment, scientists and engineers found out that Rosetta almost hit the target landing point and only missed it by 33 meters. This proves that flight dynamic embedded into Rosetta's system is accurate until the mission end. However, other ESA spacecraft, the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander did not live long enough to test the accuracy of its new landing and navigational system since it crashed during initial descent to Mars.

"It's great to have these first insights from Rosetta's last set of data," Matt Taylor, ESA's Rosetta project scientist said in a press release. "Operations have been completed for over two months now, and the instrument teams are very much focused on analyzing their huge datasets collected during Rosetta's two-plus years at the comet," Taylor added.

During Rosetta's descent, it managed to capture a ton of images giving scientists new data to analyze from the spacecraft's odd, descending point-of-view. The images will help scientists understand the geologic history of comet 67P. Based on ESA's report, the final image beamed back by Rosetta was taken about 20 meters from the surface of the comet.

ESA is expected to release the data from the experiment to the public in the agency's archive.

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