The descent of European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta on Sept. 30 will be a historic spectacle and the culmination of a long and pricey mission. The orbiter is expected to crash in a region of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet where pits are in plenty.

The crash landing of the $1.3 billion Rosetta mission is a foregone conclusion because it was not designed to land. The descent will be like a one-way trip, hitting the rugged surface of the comet, and the orbiter anticipated to end up as smithereens of junk and rubble.

Arriving at Comet 67P in August 2014, Rosetta had been readying for the descent mode. Friday's landing will be the second for the Rosetta mission. Philae, the lander carried by Rosetta hit Comet 67P's surface in November 2014. However, it was a bad landing that affected the anchoring harpoons and led to the bouncing of the craft.

For the final descent, the robotic spacecraft started flying elliptical orbits since Aug. 9 to stay closer to the comet. It is now within 1 kilometer of the comet's surface.

"Although we've been flying Rosetta around the comet for two years now, keeping it operating safely for the final weeks of the mission in the unpredictable environment of this comet and so far from the Sun and Earth, will be our biggest challenge yet," said Sylvain Lodiot, ESA's spacecraft operations manager.

The point where the orbiter will descend is called Ma'at, which is a smaller lobe of the comet where so many active pits with diameters of more than 100 meters in diameter are already present.

According to ESA, Rosetta is expected to crash at a point named Deir el-Medina, with the name coming from an ancient Egyptian town. Rosetta will be hitting a point close to Deir el-Medina at an ellipse of 700 x 500 meters.

What Rosetta Means?

Rosetta's main distinction is that it is the first ever spacecraft to orbit a comet. The name Rosetta comes from the famous "Rosetta Stone," which is a volcanic stone preserved in the British Museum of London and played a crucial role in unveiling the secrets of ancient Egypt.

Just as the Rosetta stone had key information about the civilization in Egypt, the Rosetta spacecraft also holds much information that can unravel the mysteries of the Solar System, particularly those of comets, which are the basic building blocks.

Rosetta's mission can support scientists with data to look back to 4,600 million years when the Sun had no planets to revolve it and only asteroids and comets were circling it.

Photo: German Aerospace Center DLR | Flickr

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