Rosetta reveals final close-up photos of Comet 67P

30 Sep 2016

Main Control Room at ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany. Image: ESA/J. Mai. CC-SA-BY 3.0 IGO

In its final hours, the Rosetta spacecraft has revealed a series of incredible photos as it makes it approach towards the surface of Comet 67P.

Everyone within the scientific community will likely be taking a moment today (30 September) to say a fond farewell to the Rosetta spacecraft, after spending nearly two years orbiting the large chunk of space debris.

From 10.30am UTC this morning, the ESA team will stream status updates from mission controllers live from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Future Human

Landing time confirmed

In the build-up over the past few days, it had yet to be seen what the official crash landing time would be for Rosetta, but the ESA has confirmed this morning that it will occur at 11.18am UTC.

Mission coverage will end at 12.40pm UTC after Rosetta reaches the comet’s surface, but in the meantime, the last few close-up images of its surface have already begun to be released as it makes its descent.

29 September Rosetta

Comet on 29 September 2016 – Osiris wide-angle camera. Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Comet at 16km

Comet at 16km. Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Comet at 8.9km

Comet at 8.9km. Image: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Aside from giving us a pictorial way to view its closing moments, the ESA has said Rosetta will still get the chance to conduct some final experiments.

As the spacecraft approaches the small lobe of the comet, its cameras will target the walls of the Ma’at pits.

The very high resolution data of these features will provide important information on how activity is driven on the comet, and maybe how the comet was formed in the first place.

While it will soon join the ranks of spacecraft that have fulfilled their purpose, its memories will live on as scientific discoveries, which included the discovery of water on Comet 67P, and it containing the building blocks of life.

But for children now and in the future, the series of cartoons charting Rosetta and Philae’s journey has been a joy to watch.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic