The Rosetta spacecraft just landed on a comet — here are the last pictures it took

The Rosetta spacecraft just landed on a comet — here are the last pictures it took
Source: AP
Source: AP

On Friday morning, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe, the first-ever spacecraft to orbit a comet, ceased sending signals home. It was 7:19 a.m. Eastern — 40 minutes after the probe landed (or crashed) on the surface of Comet 67P — when the signals stopped, ending its two-year mission. The final descent was the last leg of a 12-year endeavor.

At mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, there was silence, followed by applause, joy and smiles. The landing happened at about two miles per hour, or an incredibly slow walking speed.

"I can announce full success of this historic descent of Rosetta towards Comet 67P," said European Space Agency mission manager Patrick Martin, according to the BBC. "Farewell Rosetta; you've done the job. That was space science at its best."

Comet 67P was targeted because its orbit could be met by Rosetta, according to the Times. Scientists learned much about the comet over the two-year mission, including that its rubber duck shape likely occurred when two comets collided, becoming a single body. The interior of the comet may have been a "very flurry material" similar to snow, according to Valerie Ciarlettie, who investigated the comet's guts using radio waves.

The ESA uploaded Rosetta's final images during its last moments of life. Here are the images, starting from about 12 miles from the surface, then descending:

Comet 67P, shot 20km from the surface
Source: 
ESA
Comet 67P, shot 15.5km from the surface
Source: 
ESA
Comet 67P, shot 11.7km from the surface
Source: 
ESA
Comet 67P, shot 8.9km from the surface
Source: 
ESA
Comet 67P, shot 5.8km from the surface
Source: 
ESA
Comet 67P, shot 1.2km from the surface
Source: 
ESA

It's been a long journey for the probe, and there probably won't be another mission that captures photos — or an abundance of new cosmic data — like these for a while. Earth bids Rosetta farewell after a job well done.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

MORE FROM

CNN's Van Jones allegedly says the Trump Russia stories are "a big nothing burger"

He's the second CNN insider this week to apparently denounce the network's Russia coverage.

Conservative columnist Bret Stephens joins MSNBC

Stephens will remain a columnist at The New York Times.

Department of Homeland Security announces new airline security rules

The new measures could help end the electronics ban.

Democrats on Neil Gorsuch's first Supreme Court term: "We've got another Scalia"

Some say Gorsuch's even-handed performance during his confirmation hearings "might be more an act than it was a real persona."

Fox News just hired US Rep. Jason Chaffetz as a correspondent

Chaffetz is headed to Fox.

Here are the key rulings from the Supreme Court's busy June term

The court's term ended with rulings on immigration, the First Amendment, LGBTQ rights and more.

CNN's Van Jones allegedly says the Trump Russia stories are "a big nothing burger"

He's the second CNN insider this week to apparently denounce the network's Russia coverage.

Conservative columnist Bret Stephens joins MSNBC

Stephens will remain a columnist at The New York Times.

Department of Homeland Security announces new airline security rules

The new measures could help end the electronics ban.

Democrats on Neil Gorsuch's first Supreme Court term: "We've got another Scalia"

Some say Gorsuch's even-handed performance during his confirmation hearings "might be more an act than it was a real persona."

Fox News just hired US Rep. Jason Chaffetz as a correspondent

Chaffetz is headed to Fox.

Here are the key rulings from the Supreme Court's busy June term

The court's term ended with rulings on immigration, the First Amendment, LGBTQ rights and more.