Sat, Apr 29, 2017 | updated 05:22 AM IST

Rosetta's journey ends in daring descent to comet

Updated: Sep 30, 2016 17:26 IST      
Rosetta's journey ends in daring descent to comet

Paris [France], Sept.30 (ANI): The ESA's historic Rosetta mission has concluded as planned, with the controlled impact onto the comet it had been investigating for more than two years.

Confirmation of the end of the mission arrived at ESA's control centre in Darmstadt, Germany at 11:19 GMT (13:19 CEST) with the loss of Rosetta's signal upon impact.

Rosetta carried out its final manoeuvre last night at 20:50 GMT (22:50 CEST), setting it on a collision course with the comet from an altitude of about 19 km. Rosetta had targeted a region on the small lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, close to a region of active pits in the Ma'at

region.

The descent gave Rosetta the opportunity to study the comet's gas, dust and plasma environment very close to its surface, as well as take very high-resolution images.

Pits are of particular interest because they play an important role in the comet's activity. They also provide a unique window into its internal building blocks.

The information collected on the descent to this fascinating region was returned to Earth before the impact. It is now no longer possible to communicate with the spacecraft.

"Rosetta has entered the history books once again," says Johann-Dietrich Worner, ESA's Director General. "Today we celebrate the success of a game-changing mission, one that has surpassed all our dreams and expectations, and one that continues ESA's legacy of 'firsts' at comets."

"Thanks to a huge international, decades-long endeavour, we have achieved our mission to take a world-class science laboratory to a comet to study its evolution over time, something that no other comet-chasing mission has attempted," notes Alvaro Gimenez, ESA's Director of Science.

"Rosetta was on the drawing board even before ESA's first deep-space mission, Giotto, had taken the first image of a comet nucleus as it flew past Halley in 1986.

"The mission has spanned entire careers, and the data returned will keep generations of scientist busy for decades to come."

"As well as being a scientific and technical triumph, the amazing journey of Rosetta and its lander Philae also captured the world's imagination, engaging new audiences far beyond the science community. It has been exciting to have everyone along for the ride," adds Mark McCaughrean, ESA's senior science advisor.

Since launch in 2004, Rosetta is now in its sixth orbit around the Sun. Its nearly 8 billion-kilometre journey included three Earth flybys and one at Mars, and two asteroid encounters.

The craft endured 31 months in deep-space hibernation on the most distant leg of its journey, before waking up in January 2014 and finally arriving at the comet in August 2014.

After becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, and the first to deploy a lander, Philae, in November 2014, Rosetta continued to monitor the comet's evolution during their closest approach to the Sun and beyond.

"We've operated in the harsh environment of the comet for 786 days, made a number of dramatic flybys close to its surface, survived several unexpected outbursts from the comet, and recovered from two spacecraft 'safe modes'," says operations manager Sylvain Lodiot.

"The operations in this final phase have challenged us more than ever before, but it's a fitting end to Rosetta's incredible adventure to follow its lander down to the comet."

The decision to end the mission on the surface is a result of Rosetta and the comet heading out beyond the orbit of Jupiter again. Further from the Sun than Rosetta has ever journeyed before, there would be little power to operate the craft.

Mission operators were also faced with an imminent month-long period when the Sun is close to the line-of-sight between Earth and Rosetta, meaning communications with the craft would have become increasingly more difficult.

"With the decision to take Rosetta down to the comet's surface, we boosted the scientific return of the mission through this last, once-in-a-lifetime operation," says mission manager Patrick Martin.

"It's a bittersweet ending, but in the end the mechanics of the Solar System were simply against us: Rosetta's destiny was set a long time ago. But its superb achievements will now remain for posterity and be used by the next generation of young scientists and engineers around the world."

While the operational side of the mission has finished today, the science analysis will continue for many years to come.

Many surprising discoveries have already been made during the mission, not least the curious shape of the comet that became apparent during Rosetta's approach in July and August 2014. Scientists now believe that the comet's two lobes formed independently, joining in a low-speed collision in the early days of the Solar System.

Long-term monitoring has also shown just how important the comet's shape is in influencing its seasons, in moving dust across its surface, and in explaining the variations measured in the density and composition of the coma, the comet's 'atmosphere'.

Some of the most unexpected and important results are linked to the gases streaming from the comet's nucleus, including the discovery of molecular oxygen and nitrogen, and water with a different 'flavour' to that in Earth's oceans.

Together, these results point to the comet being born in a very cold region of the protoplanetary nebula when the Solar System was still forming more than 4.5 billion years ago.

While it seems that the impact of comets like Rosetta's may not have delivered as much of Earth's water as previously thought, another much anticipated question was whether they could have brought ingredients regarded as crucial for the origin of life.

Rosetta did not disappoint, detecting the amino acid glycine, which is commonly found in proteins, and phosphorus, a key component of DNA and cell membranes. Numerous organic compounds were also detected ¬by Rosetta from orbit, and also by Philae in situ on the surface.

Overall, the results delivered by Rosetta so far paint comets as ancient leftovers of early Solar System formation, rather than fragments of collisions between larger bodies later on, giving an unparalleled insight into what the building blocks of the planets may have looked like 4.6

billion years ago.

"Just as the Rosetta Stone after which this mission was named was pivotal in understanding ancient language and history, the vast treasure trove of Rosetta spacecraft data is changing our view on how comets and the Solar System formed," says project scientist Matt Taylor.

"Inevitably, we now have new mysteries to solve. The comet hasn't given up all of its secrets yet, and there are sure to be many surprises hidden in this incredible archive. So don't go anywhere yet - we're only just beginning." (ANI)

Oceans at risk due to rising levels of carbon dioxide

Updated: Apr 28, 2017 12:27 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 28 (ANI): As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases and the acidity of water changes, it might lead to change in crucial marine process.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 27 (ANI): Animal rights activists have been debating about the use of animals in biomedical research since long but scientists suggest improvements to animal testing protocols could boost credibility and usefulness.

Full Story >>

London [UK], Apr 26 (ANI): As NASA's Cassini Spacecraft enters its final dive, called 'The Grand Finale', into orbiting Saturn's moon, Titan, Google commemorates the occasion by making a special Doodle.

Full Story >>

India's outsized coal plans put Paris climate goals at risk

Updated: Apr 26, 2017 08:34 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 26 (ANI): India will not be able to meet its Paris climate agreement commitments in the coming years if it carries through with plans to construct nearly 370 coal-fired power plants, according to University of California, Irvine and CoalSwarm researchers.

Full Story >>

NASA looks at newly formed Tropical Depression 3W in 3-D

Updated: Apr 26, 2017 07:21 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 26 (ANI): Tropical Depression 03W formed in the Pacific Ocean west of Guam on April 24, 2017, and data from the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission or GPM core satellite was used to look at the storm in 3-D.

Full Story >>

Researchers relate extreme weather to global warming

Updated: Apr 25, 2017 11:19 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 25 (ANI): In the past, scientists typically avoided linking individual weather events to climate change, citing the challenges of teasing apart human influence from the natural variability of the weather. But that is changing.

Full Story >>

Ahmedabad surgeon performs India's 1st robotic surgery

Updated: Apr 24, 2017 18:43 IST     

Ahmedabad (Guajarat) [India], Apr 24 (ANI): A unique robotic surgical procedure, said to be the first of its kind performed in India and third in the world, was recently performed by a doctor at Sterling Hospitals on a 37-year old patient to relieve him of acute pain caused by a rare condition of Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome.

Full Story >>

This 3-D skin printer can heal severe burns faster

Updated: Apr 23, 2017 07:11 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 23 (ANI): A newly-developed method for using a modified printer that covers wounds with healthy skin cells can make the traditional burn treatment a history.

Full Story >>

Turns out, you can 'point out' a man's education

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 14:51 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 21 (ANI): Knowing a man's education is as simple as looking at his fingers, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Just when you thought brain games made you smarter

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 14:39 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 21 (ANI): You may want to be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brain's performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Accomplished female scientists often overlooked

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 14:17 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 21 (ANI): Turns out, gender gap still exists in the STEM fields-science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Full Story >>

Port Blair [India], April 21 (ANI): In a first of its kind study, peptides, from the venom of cone snails, have been identified that opens up possibilities of drug research for several human ailments.

Full Story >>

Antarctica's biodiversity 'falling between the cracks'

Updated: Apr 20, 2017 22:49 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 20 (ANI): The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been debunked.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], April 18 (ANI): Keep your worries at bay as Azithromycin group of medicine is no more linked to an increased risk of irregular heartbeat, says a study.

Full Story >>

Even with head-up display, texting while driving not safe

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 12:38 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Despite relatively less distraction from the head-up displays, a recent study has suggested that texting while driving is still a bad idea.

Full Story >>

Now, sketch your way to better learning

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 11:31 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Sketching exercises can help students learn many subjects, but they are woefully underused in classrooms, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Randomness peaks when you're 25

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 10:18 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): 25 is the "golden age," when people's ability to make random choices or mimic a random process, such as coming up with hypothetical results for a series of coin flips, peaks, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Why having a 'nice' boss may be 'bad' for you

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 10:02 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Those feeling stressed at work may want to rethink before blaming their bosses as it turns out, an unsupportive manager can actually be good for you.

Full Story >>

Are you all ears? Your eyes indicate if you are

Updated: Apr 16, 2017 09:06 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 16 (ANI): Turns out, the eyes really are a window to the soul as a recent study has found that your pupils give away whether or not you are listening.

Full Story >>

Our ancestors defeated virus from HIV family 11m years ago

Updated: Apr 15, 2017 12:46 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Apr 15 (ANI): Viral fossils have revealed how our ancestors may have wiped out a primordial virus around 11 million years ago.

Full Story >>