After 12 years chasing a comet across more than 6 billion kilometers of space, European scientists will end the historic Rosetta mission by crashing the spacecraft on the surface of the dusty, icy body at the end of this month.
The spacecraft has managed several historic firsts, including the first time a spacecraft has orbited a comet rather than just whizzing past to snap some fly-by pictures and the first time a probe has landed on a comet’s surface.
It was also the first mission to venture beyond the main asteroid belt relying solely on solar cells for power.
After more than two years of circling comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, collecting a treasure trove of data that will keep scientists busy for years to come, the comet’s distance from the sun is nearing the point where solar power becomes too weak to operate the spacecraft and download data from its computers.
In the final hours of its controlled descent on Friday next week, Rosetta should be able to take close-up pictures of the comet and collect data on gases closer to the surface before joining Philae and shutting down forever.
“We haven’t been in those last 2km [to the surface] with Rosetta and we believe it’s fundamental in understanding how gases and dust get from the surface out to the outer atmosphere,” Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor told reporters ahead of Rosetta’s end-of-mission event at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Those who have worked on Rosetta say it by far exceeded their expectations by surviving the trip for as long as it did.
It sent its 100kg washing-machine-sized lander down to the surface in November 2014 in what was considered a remarkable feat of precision space travel, even if the lander ended up bouncing and coming to rest in the shade where it could not be recharged.
“We were going into the unknown,” ESA head of mission operations Paolo Ferri told reporters. “The spacecraft really surprised us.”
The Rosetta mission has inspired artists as well as scientists. Electronic music composer Vangelis has produced a new album called Rosetta, with the release timed for the end of the mission.
“We knew Rosetta was going to have a big impact, but didn’t know it was going to be this big and that people would be that interested in it,” Taylor said. “It had all the components — a long journey, adventure, technological challenges and danger and of course, the reason we are there for: cool science.”
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
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