Here’s to you, #Rosetta, ‘space science at its best’

rosetta_and_its_target_comet
Image from ESA via Sky & Telescope.

Rosetta’s work is done.

The space probe, sent into the solar system in 2004 to observe and explore the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, crashed into it Friday, a noble (and planned) conclusion to its 12-year mission.

In 2014, Rosetta’s lander Philae set foot (so to speak) on the comet, sending back a treasure trove of information before its power went out. Meanwhile, Rosetta kept watch from a distance, transmitting images of the comet (and other celestial objects) back to Earth.

Even in its final moments, Rosetta kept working. From The Associated Press:

The controlled descent took place at about 90 centimeters per second — roughly half walking speed — giving Rosetta a chance to snap some unprecedented low-altitude images of the comet that could reveal surface features as small as an inch (2.5 centimeter).

Frankly, I’m enthralled by space exploration, whether done by machines — as it has been for too long — or manned missions. There was a time when I wished to be a passenger aboard “2001’s” Pan Am-branded shuttle. Now Pan Am is gone, 2001 is 15 years in the past and talk of manned missions beyond earth orbit remains just that — talk.

I may never be able to climb aboard a space-bound vehicle. (It would probably be too pricey, anyway.) But through probes like Rosetta, we can all get a taste of the heavens.

“Farewell Rosettta, you’ve done the job,” said mission manager Patrick Martin, according to the AP story. “That is space science at its best.”

Looking forward to much, much more.

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