The Rosetta probe has sent its last signal to Earth on September 30 at 13:19 pm Central European summer time – the ESA mission ended with the impact on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The international team of scientists had already stopped any direct communication with lander Philae in February 2016, when his long radio silence indicated that he would no longer report to his control team at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Rosetta was not planned to be landed - it was not developed as a landing gear. On the collision course to the comet, however, seven instruments were able to record data and send it to earth. "The mission of Rosetta can be described as a milestone in space travel. The achievements of the scientists and engineers have given us an incredible insight into the history of our planetary system," says Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chairman of the Board of DLR. "The data and images that Rosetta and Lander Philae have transmitted to us will form the basis for planning and scientific questions for future missions in our solar system."
The Philae landing craft touched down on comet on 12 November 2014. It has now been found: it is not located at the convenient site originally selected for its landing, but rather – following a series of three bounces – in a grim and dark environment. All the same, the lander did now receive company: the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta orbiter, which until now has been orbiting the comet, was brought down to the surface of Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016. Although the fourth 'touchdown' was not a landing in any traditional sense but did instead more resemble a gentle impact, the orbiter and lander now nevertheless continue to travel together around the Sun. "The moment at which a mission to which you have dedicated two decades of work irrevocably comes to an end with this kind of impact is, of course, a rather sentimental occasion," says Philae project manager Stephan Ulamec from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). "But on the other hand, we have collected so much data that there is no real reason to be sad."
The Rosetta mission, being undertaken by ESA, aims to research the history of how our Solar System was formed by investigating one of the oldest and most primordial of heavenly bodies, a comet. The mission consists of one orbiter and the Philae lander. DLR played a major role in building the lander and runs the lander control. 14 FAULHABER Drive Systems on board of Philae help to scientifically study the surface of the comet.
DLR / DE