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Rosetta probe set for comet collision

don_06.jpgProfessor Don Pollacco from the Department of Physics discusses the end of the Rosetta probe mission today in anticipation of Comet 67Y's iminent collision:

The Rosetta probe will today end its mission by crashing into the Comet 67Y - the body it was sent to study. Truth be told it will be more of a friendly pat as the impact will happen at walking pace. None the less Rosetta was never build to endure this encounter so even if it remains intact, its antenna will no longer be pointing towards earth and contact will be lost. Rosetta will be immortalised on the comet along with its plucky landing craft Philae.

"Just like Philae the “crash” will probably end up with a few bounces and somersaults before Rosetta comes to rest. Up until the actual first impact the probe will continue to send back telemetry and images etc so we will get to see a close up of the comet and in particular of what are believed to be ancient structures nicknamed "dinosaur eggs” that Rosetta has been commanded to hit.

"In reality, ESA didnt have too many options for the future of Rosetta: as the Comet and its orbiting companion are now moving away from the sun and already along way from earth, its solar panels will soon struggle to produce enough power for communication with earth and any meaningful science observations, so landing the probe seems like a last flourish to gain some important science. Observations of the dinosaur eggs will tell us something about this pristine and ancient material probably made at the dawn of the solar system, it will be one step towards understand what the solar system was like when the earth came into being.

"Anyway, raise a glass to Rosetta and its little Philae lander - it will live on together on the surface of Comet 67Y for all time."

30th September 2016

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Melissa Holloway, Assistant Press Officer, Tel: 024 76 575601