After two years orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter met its end Friday morning. But the spacecraft did useful science to the last, delivering data packets as it slowly crashed into a particularly active area of the comet. Now its signal has been lost, indicating that the spacecraft has finally rejoined its ill-fated lander Philae, which was recently located after dying and evading detection for nearly two years after its historic landing on the comet’s surface.
OK. Why did we do that?
No, that’s not the reason:
[W]hile we’re sad to see Rosetta go, there’s no denying that the mission has been a huge success. Researchers have used the orbiter’s data to help disprove a long-held hypothesis that Earth’s water might have been carried to the newborn planet by comets. But the discovery of certain life-giving organic molecules suggests that comets such as 67P may have seeded our planet in other ways. Even after Rosetta dies, researchers will continue poring over the orbiter’s data for months and years.