How Rosetta Will Wind Up

As I already noted, it was one year ago that the Philae lander tumbled to a landing on 67P/CG. If you haven’t looked at it, check out the reconstruction and review on the Rosetta blog, “Reconstructing Philae’s flight across the comet”.

No project is ever perfect, and no project is ever finished. But all projects come to an end. The Rosetta mission will end in about 10 months.

The blog explains the situation, “From one comet landing to another: planning Rosetta’s grand finale“.

As 67P/CG continues out away from the sun, the amount of solar power available for the orbiter decreases. In addition, dust has degraded the solar cells.

Power is life, and Rosetta is running out. In a few months, it will be impossible to operate all the instruments at the same time, and eventually the transmitter will go out.

She is also running out of fuel for maneuvering. And, in fact, everything is aging and will start failing.

And finally, the farther she is, the harder it is to receive her signals, and the less data that can come back, even if it can be collected.

In short, it’s game over.

Facing these facts, the Rosetta team plans to do a final dive, circling in to a crash landing while the spacecraft still has power and capability. On this final swoop, she will suck up as much data as possible, from closer and closer, blasting it back to Earth. Pretty much a triumphant, screaming, last hurrah.

At the end, the probe will crash into the surface and that will be that.

Someday, someone might visit 67P/CG and find the frozen corpses of Rosetta and Philae. But we’ll hear no more from them in our lifetimes.


Space Saturday

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