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European Space Agency prepares to crash Rosetta into comet

Rosetta's lander Philae reaches the comet in 2014. Credit: PA

The European Space Agency are making final preparations to crash a spacecraft into a comet, and bring to an end the £1bn Rosetta mission.

Final commands will be sent to the Rosetta orbiter on Thursday, instructing it to crash into Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The decision to crash the spacecraft was taken because the comet is heading too far away from the Sun for its solar panels to generate enough power.

Scientists hope to capture stunning images and valuable data in the final moments before its impact.

The surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken by Philae. Credit: PA

It's "collision manoeuvre" will begin at 9.50pm UK time on Thursday.

It is expected to hit the comet at 11.40am on Friday, however confirmation of its death is expected at around 12.20am due to the time it takes radio signals to reach earth.

Rosetta flight director Andrea Accomazzo said: "From an energy point of view it will be a soft landing.

"But Rosetta's not designed to land, so there will be some energy dissipation. For sure, Rosetta will bounce or tumble on the surface of the comet, but will not bounce back into orbit.

Rosetta's journey:

  • August 6 2014: Rosetta reached comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenk
  • November 12 2014: Rosetta deployed Philae, which bounced on the comet and ended up resting in a crevice
  • September 2 2016: Rosetta spotted Philae lying crookedly in darkness
  • July 2016: All contact with Philae was lost after the European Space Agency (ESA) turned off its radio link
  • September 30 2016: Rosetta will begin its descent, targetting the Ma'at region - an area that produces jets of gas and dust