Goodbye, Rosetta: World Bids Farewell As Spacecraft Ends Mission With Comet Impact

Rosetta's legacy will live long into the future. ESA

Rosetta launched on March 2, 2004 from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket. The spacecraft then began a 10-year journey to Comet 67P, spending most of it in hibernation, with its solar panels the sole provider of its power.

The journey saw Rosetta travel 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) and included a flyby of Mars and three flybys of Earth to reach the comet. In June 2015, the spacecraft woke up from hibernation, before officially entering orbit on August 6, 2014. What followed were two years of scientific observations, including the dramatic release and landing of its Philae probe in November 2014.

Philae bounced across the surface before coming to a rest, completing more than 80 percent of its science. Now, Rosetta has joined it on the same lobe of the comet, although being on the other side, there was no chance of them being in sight of each other.

Rosetta snapped this image, with its landing site on the smaller lobe seen. ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Unlike Philae, which had a bit of a bumpy landing, Rosetta’s speed was so slow (about walking pace) that it was expected to come to rest on the surface without bouncing up again, although we'll never know for sure. There was a small chance Rosetta would actually end up in one of the pits, as the possible landing site was across quite a large area, although this didn’t come to be.

The mood at the finale was bittersweet, with the mission given a fitting send-off, but bringing to an end what has been a globally acclaimed mission for ESA. Now, they will look to upcoming missions to Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter’s icy moons to generate the same level of excitement.

But for now, it’s goodbye to Rosetta, the most successful comet mission in history. It's one that has told us more about our beginning in the Solar System than ever before.

“Farewell Rosetta, you have done the job,” said Martin.

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