Rosetta’s grand finale – frequently asked questions
09-09-2016 03:00 PM CEST
Why is the mission ending?
The decision to end the mission on 30 September ultimately comes as a result of the spacecraft’s ever-increasing distance from the Sun. Comet 67P/C-G, and therefore Rosetta, is currently heading out towards the orbit of Jupiter, resulting in significantly reduced solar power with which to operate the craft and its instruments. In addition, by early October, the teams would be faced with a month-long solar conjunction – when the Sun lies between the Earth and Rosetta and the comet. This would result in significantly reduced communication capabilities (including downlinking science data) for around a month. Combined with an ageing spacecraft and payload that have endured the harsh environment of space for over 12 years – not least two years close to a dusty comet – this means that Rosetta is reaching the end of its natural life and so 30 September was considered the optimum date to conclude the mission.
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