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Emily LakdawallaSeptember 30, 2016

Rosetta is gone

Today there is one less spacecraft returning science data from beyond Earth. The European Space Operations Centre received the final transmission from Rosetta at 11:19 September 30, UT. A very quiet control center and press room watched as the strong signal from Rosetta’s high-gain antenna suddenly vanished. A few people applauded, but the mood here is subdued.

One of the last moments before #Rosetta's controlled impact. This feels really weird. @ESA_Rosetta @esaoperations #esa @esa #comet #space

— Andrzej Olchawa (@aolchawa) September 30, 2016

@elakdawalla :')

— Erwin Ho (@erwinho84) September 30, 2016

The spacecraft transmitted scientific data all the way down to just meters above the surface and seconds before impact. A few instruments shared live science updates via Twitter.

At 7 km, I still only see solar wind. 67P is holding its breath waiting for us? @Rosetta_RPC @ESA_Rosetta #CometLanding

— RPCLAP on Rosetta (@RPC_LAP) September 30, 2016

Mission complete: @ESA_Rosetta’s journey ends in daring descent to the comet #CometLanding

— ESA Science (@esascience) September 30, 2016

Only a few km to go and still very low density. Seems I am going to rest in a quiet place. #GoodbyeRosetta #CometLanding

— RPCLAP on Rosetta (@RPC_LAP) September 30, 2016

Sharp plasma density drop 10-15 minutes before impact, exciting!! Thank you dearest RPCLAP, @Rosetta_RPC and @ESA_Rosetta from all of us

— RPCLAP on Rosetta (@RPC_LAP) September 30, 2016

From #67P with love: a last image, taken 51 metres before #CometLanding #MissionComplete

— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) September 30, 2016

The last housekeeping telemetry packet received from #Rosetta-Alice was at 10:39:00.6, just a few seconds before impact.#CometLanding v2.0

— Joel Parker (@joelwmparker) September 30, 2016

But today is really more about the moment than about the data. As usual, artists were inspired...


— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) September 30, 2016

ロゼッタとフィラエとチュリモフ・ゲラシメンコ彗星 #Rosetta #CometLanding #GoodbyeRosetta

— キラ(:3_ヽ)_うすゴジ (@aikawakira) September 30, 2016

xkcd has the untold #CometLanding story

— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) September 30, 2016


#Rosetta, is that you? #CometLanding

— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) September 30, 2016

When @chrislintott and I saw these images from the final Rosetta cartoon, we both needed hugs.

— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) September 30, 2016

Data from these last hours will trickle out slowly, over time. The final NavCam images were taken right after the final maneuver. This is the last view ever taken by Rosetta's NavCam:

Rosetta's final NavCam image

ESA / Rosetta / NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

Rosetta's final NavCam image
After firing its rockets to send the spacecraft on an impact trajectory, Rosetta captured five NavCam images to help navigators predict its final path. This is the final NavCam image of the mission. Taken on 30 September 2016 at 00:59 UTC, when Rosetta was 17.4 km from the center of the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, about 15.4 km from the surface. The scale at the surface is about 1.5 m/pixel and the image measures about 1.5 km across.

And here is one of the OSIRIS images taken midway through the descent.

Churyumov-Gerasimenko's two terrains

ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA

Churyumov-Gerasimenko's two terrains
This OSIRIS image was taken early in Rosetta's final descent toward the comet, at 06:53 on 30 September 2016, from a range of 8.9 kilometers. It features the two main kinds of terrain on the comet: rocky-textured, fractured material, and smooth, dust-covered material. When fully enlarged, the image has a resolution of 17 centimeters per pixel.

I'll post more pictures and facts later. For now: Farewell, Rosetta. You were a good spacecraft.

Read more: Rosetta and Philae, comets, mission status, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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