STUNNING photos capture Rosetta probe’s FOUR BILLION MILE comet crash mission


Rosetta: The ESA launched one of the most ambitious space mission ever attempted in 2004 (Image: ESA)

The Rosetta spacecraft was one of the most ambitious space mission ever attempted. The 10-year trip saw the European Space Agency (ESA) blast a craft to catch a comet and land a probe on it. Launched in 2004, the Rosetta arrived at its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on August 6, 2014, capturing unprecedented photographs on the way.

ESA scientists hoped the mission would provide a key to many questions about the origins of the solar system – and even life on Earth.

After a setback in which Rosetta’s lander did not deploy correctly, the orbiter continued to study its comet for almost two years before plunging into the mysterious entity’s surface.

The mission included the Philae lander, which made the first touchdown on the comet.

Unfortunately, the lander did not stay down, with ESA scientists later revealing Philae unexpectedly bounced twice before when the probe’s anchor-like harpoon system failed to fire.


Rosetta missions: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko seen from an altitude of 14 miles (Image: ESA)

Philae ended up in shadow near a cliff face on the head of the 2.5 mile-wide (4 km) comet, which photographs showed it was shaped like a rubber duck.

The probe fell silent on November 14 as its solar batteries ran out of power.

And although Philae briefly woke when the comet drew near the sun in July 2015, is soon fell silent forever.

On September 30, 2016, Rosetta made a planned final fateful plunge into its comet, ending its incredible mission.

The controlled dive came as the comet headed toward the outer solar system, where the spacecraft would not be able to continue to operate under solar power.

The Rosetta mission in considered to have been an unprecedented success.

Rosetta was the first spacecraft to accompany a comet as it entered the inner solar system, as well as the first to attempt landing on a comet.

After meeting up with the icy satellite, the spacecraft began a two-year study of the comet’s nucleus and environment, observing how a frozen comet changes as it approaches the heat of the sun.


Rosetta mission: The craft captured this image sequence during its descent to the comet's surface (Image: ESA)


Rosetta mission: Comet-67P is photographed from 3.6 miles (Image: ESA)

Rosetta was an aluminium box with two solar panels that extended out like wings.

The box, weighing about 3,000 kilograms, had solar panels spanning about 105ft (32m), allowing Rosetta to become the first spacecraft to rely solely on solar cells to generate power.

Rosetta’s payload included 11 instruments that provided information about how the comet develops its coma and tails, and how its chemicals interact with one another and with radiation and the solar wind.

And other instrumentation analysed the comet’s composition and atmosphere.