Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket and reached Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet.
Rosetta has now been given its mission termination date.
The European Space Agency says the probe will crash onto comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko on Sept. 30, joining its lander Philae.
The spacecraft is heading out towards the orbit of Jupiter, resulting in significantly reduced solar power to operate the craft and its instruments, and a reduction in bandwidth available to downlink scientific data.
The Philae lander successfully made the first soft landing on a comet nucleus when it touched down on Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014.
The agency said Thursday that the final descent will require careful manoeuvrs and offer a unique opportunity to take close-up images of the comet before Rosetta hits the icy surface.
“We’re trying to squeeze as many observations in as possible before we run out of solar power,” says Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta project scientist. “30 September will mark the end of spacecraft operations, but the beginning of the phase where the full Focus of the teams will be on science. That is what the Rosetta mission was Launched for and we have years of work ahead of us, thoroughly analysing its data.”
Data from Rosetta and Philae have improved scientists’ understanding of comets and the role they played in the early universe.