Europe’s Rosetta probe has ended its mission to Comet 67P by crash-landing on to the icy item’s surface.
In the hours before the collision that was planned, Rosetta sent back a host of high-resolution pictures and other measurements of the icy dirt ball.
Scientists anticipate all the data collected at 67P before two years to keep them occupied for decades to come.
The loss of signal, when it happened, was greeted by muted cheers and handshakes – not overly surprising given the bittersweet nature of the occasion.
Some of the scientists watching on within Darmstadt have spent the better part of 30 years on this project.
Throughout Friday morning they had followed every twist and turn as the probe got its final observations and aimed on the head of the 4km-wide, duck-shaped comet for a touchdown area.
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is heading away from the sun, limiting the solar energy available to Rosetta to control its systems.
Let it slowly disappear into inactivity or just rather than put the probe into hibernation, the mission team ascertained the enterprise should make an effort to go out in style.
European Space Agency project scientist Matt Taylor said that if Rosetta was put to sleep with the aim of waking up it again when the inner Solar System was visited by 67P – there was no guarantee it’d function properly.
“It is like one of those 60s rock bands; we do not desire to have a rubbish comeback tour. We’d rather go out now in true rock’n’roll style,” he said.
Rosetta arrived in August 2014 – at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – to give its complete name to the comet, after a 10-year journey from Earth.
Alongside the thing that was mountainous it’s lived in the time, it has unlocked the secrets about chemistry, its structure and its behavior.
The European Space Agency says the assignment continues to be an outstanding success and will transform our understanding of the huge icy dirt-balls that wander among the planets.