The Rosetta space probe is preparing to take its final flight after two years of delivering data back to scientists on Earth. The original plan for the probe was to monitor Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it has done impressively during its time.
The plan right now is to have the Rosetta change course and descend on the comet it has been orbiting, and from there, it will collect data up close until it goes out of power. The comet will likely be its final resting place for decades to come.
Rosetta cost the European Space Agency a whopping £750 million ($995 million) to build and send off into space. One of the reasons the ESA created Rosetta to orbit Comet 67P is due to the belief that this comet is a leftover fragment of the solar system's creation billions of years ago.
It is said that when Earth was created, it was too hot to sustain water. Theories suggest water found its way to the planet somehow, and that these comets, which are made up of ice, dust, and other materials, managed to bombard the planet, ultimately melting and creating water.
We can see why astronomers are so interested in this comet, but for now, the idea should be taken as a theory.
"Rosetta has returned reams of data we are only beginning to analyze," Mark McCaughrean, ESA's senior science adviser, told The Guardian. "It is transforming our understanding of the way the solar system was put together."
John Zarnecki, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, played an important role in the design of the probe 25 years ago. He stated that Europeans tend to pay less than Americans when it comes down to space science. Despite that, they have managed to create the gold standard in space probes with Rosetta.
Rosetta was launched into space back in 2004, and reached its destination 10 years later. Throughout the time, the probe has been orbiting Comet 67P and even managed to locate the Philae Lander.
Researchers will now gather the information the Rosetta space probe has found, and analyze them in hopes to confirm the theory that comets were the cause for water on Earth.
Looking through all the documents and coming up with a conclusion will take many years. Even if the theory proves to be wrong, there is no doubt interesting things will be learned from the information gathered by Rosetta.