Fare Thee Well, Rosetta…..

It’s the end of a groundbreaking mission: last Friday, the Rosetta spacecraft made its final maneuver, delicately descending to the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, there to remain indefinitely along with its lander, Philae.  Unlike other spacecraft resting on celestial bodies, there’s no way of knowing how long it will really stay on the surface; comets are famously volatile, and there’s no telling when that bit of the comet might sheer off.

Still, the spacecraft returned some lovely images on the way down, following in the path of NEAR-Shoemaker, which did the same thing on asteroid 433 Eros at the end of its mission fifteen years ago, images that could not have been captured any other way.  Controllers targeted a region known as Deir el-Medina.  Like this mission itself and many other features on 67P, this pit is named for a place significant to the history of Egyptology.  The abandoned village of Deir el-Medina in Egypt was excavated in 1920s, and found to be the homes of the artisans who built and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, housed in this purpose-built village away from the general public to protect the security of the Valley of the Kings.

ESA has released this composite showing the sequence of images taken while Rosetta descended, right up until the final image on the lower right:

rosetta_landing

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