The Spacecraft Rosetta Died to 'Go Out Now in True Rock 'n' Roll Style' - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

The Spacecraft Rosetta Died to ‘Go Out Now in True Rock ‘n’ Roll Style’

Crash-landing into a comet is pretty metal.

An artist’s rendering of Rosetta just before impact. (Photo: ESA)

Over 11 years ago, the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta spacecraft, which was sent about 350 million miles into space to study a comet with the unwieldy name of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (most commonly just 67P).

On Friday, Rosetta died, after scientists here on Earth steered it onto 67P’s surface, crash-landing the spacecraft in an intentional kamikaze maneuver. 

The scientists, many of whom have been working on Rosetta for the majority of their careers, could’ve also put the craft to sleep, and perhaps gotten one more round of data when 67P next came across a brighter part of our atmosphere. But they went the kamikaze route instead. 

Why? It was possible that Rosetta would never wake up again, for one. And also: rock ‘n’ roll.

“It’s like one of those ’60s rock bands; we don’t want to have a rubbish comeback tour. We’d rather go out now in true rock’n’roll style,” one scientist told the BBC.

Fair enough. Rosetta has already brought the ESA reams of data about 67P, including a lot of images. It took its last picture just moments from hitting the surface. The photo is blurry because Rosetta’s camera was not designed to take photos so close up. 

(Photo: ESA)

“Farewell Rosetta; you’ve done the job,” said European Space Agency mission manager Patrick Martin, according to the BBC. “That was space science at its best.”