After two years of living with a comet, Rosetta will finally end its journey by softly landing onto it. However, Rosetta has served its purpose well and has produced a wealth of information which will be now studied in its minutest details.
It will bring to a close one of the most ambitious missions by the European Space Agency. Rosetta had reached the 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet in August 2014 and has been sending tons of data and pictures of the comet. The comet itself is a piece of material left behind when the solar system was formed some four and a half billion years ago.
The orbit of the craft is getting more and more elliptical, and it will finally crash into the comet ending its 12 year’s journey. Rosetta will then switch off its radio transmitter and become silent. As soon as contact is lost with the craft, we will know that Rosetta mission is over. The shutting off of the radio transmitter is necessary to prevent the spacecraft from interfering in deep space communication with other spacecraft.
The craft which was sent to study the comet has enriched our knowledge about comets. The first surprise was the shape; it was not round and looked more like a duck. The 67P was two comets. It also broke some assumptions like comets are dirty ice balls. However, there was not much ice on the comet. The comet spun every 12 hours, and periodically frost was formed and disappears on the surface.
The craft is only 1.2 miles from the surface, and all the hardware on the spacecraft is working fine. The puzzle about how water reached Earth. It could not have been from the Comet 67P because Rosetta measured the fraction of Deuterium or Heavy Hydrogen –in the stream of water which came out of the surface –and it was much higher than the percentage found on Earth.
The craft is scheduled to land on the head portion of the comet which bears some mysterious pits. It is possible that Rosetta will end its journey in one such pit.