All good things end sooner or later, and Rosetta’s mission – an absolute first in space exploration (read the story and the success here) – ends today, when the probe, already on its collision track, will eventually crash on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko later in the day.
Rosetta, however, will send over more stunning images, before landing on the Ma’at region of the comet, where deep active pits produce jets of gas and dust. How will we know it has happened? ESA explains:
How will we know it has happened? ESA explains: “Confirmation that Rosetta has ended its mission will be seen on screen in mission control on a ‘spectrum analyser’, a type of graph that shows the carrier signal received by the ground stations on Earth. Contrary to Rosetta’s wake-up from deep space hibernation in January 2014, where a rise in the spacecraft carrier signal was seen in the on-screen spectrum analyser, mission controllers will see the signal drop for the final time once it ceases to transmit. […]
Rosetta’s collision with the surface is expected to occur at 10:40 GMT (±20 minutes) at the comet. Taking into account the 40 minute signal travel time between Rosetta and Earth on 30 September, this means the confirmation would be expected at mission control at 11:20 GMT / 13:20 CEST (±20 minutes).”
In the meantime, enjoy these stunning images of Rosetta’s descent on the comet.
Update post-landing: all things went as planned. Full video coverage available on ESA blog. The very last image (below, the one in blue) was taken on the comet’s surface by OSIRIS lens on Rosetta. Wow.