After being on an extend journey through space for almost ten years, the European Space Agency announced that Rosetta will be making its final trip on comet 67B.
After sending the landing probe Philae on the 12th of November on the rocky surface of the 67B comet, Rosetta has been trailing it in order to begin an extensive mission starting this December. This mission will most likely last until September 2016 due to funding and fuel problems. Until then, Rosetta will study the comet throughout its journey through space in its vicinity.
The grand finale of the expedition will be the eventual landing of the spacecraft on the surface of the comet to join the landing probe. Until then, it will carefully trail behind the comet in order to research its tail and the effects that space has on the aforementioned object.
Rosetta was closest to the comet when it launched the landing probe Philae, but had to back off slightly from the nucleus of 67B to its vicinity to the Sun. Philae had a very rough landing on the comet, diverting from its original landing spot, thus making it incapable of charging its solar batteries when the comet neared the Sun.
Because of this problem, Rosetta is now in charge of the 67B’s study and will eventually land near its fallen comrade later next year. The expedition was hoped to last much longer but unfortunately, the craft wasn’t tested to last through two hibernation periods in order to recharge its batteries.
The landing will prove to be the most difficult part of this voyage, considering that Rosetta was never built to withstand such a feat. Its massive solar panels and different appendages will most likely break during the landing procedure and communication with Earth will be halted due to the impossibility of mother base to position the antennae towards our planet.
But her sacrifice will most certainly not be in vain, the last pictures that she will take and send to Earth during the final moments of approach to the comet will be invaluable. Even though the probability of Rosetta to withstand the landing and her ability to still function properly in order to send information back to Earth are almost zero, there might still be hope.
We won’t know the results until November next year due to the positioning of the comet 67B in a solar conjunction, the satellite and comet finding themselves between the Earth and the Sun.
Even though Rosetta will be making its final trip on comet 67B next year, the information she will provide will be well worth the sacrifice and pave the grounds for better and more documented comet studies in the future.