The European Space Agency (ESA) has completed a massive publicly-available archive of images and data collected over the course of the historic Rosetta mission. Rosetta and Philae captured almost 100,000 images during their 12-year mission to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, revolutionizing our understanding of these icy celestial wanderers, and capturing the hearts and imaginations of the public along the way.
Rosetta rendezvoused with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014, and accompanied the comet as it sped inwards to its closest point in its orbit to the Sun, known as perihelion. In November 2014, the Philae lander departed from the mothership, and gently drifted down towards the barren, hazard-ridden surface of the alien body.
Drama ensued as Philae's harpoons – which were meant to safely secure the little probe to the comet's surface – failed to fire, leaving Philae to bounce across the alien landscape before finally coming to rest on its side, in the shadow of a cliff.
Amazingly, the abused probe was able to complete about 80 percent of its planned first science sequence before falling into hibernation. Sporadic contact was made with the probe after this point, with the final signal from the isolated lander being received on July 9. Drained of power, with limited access to sunlight, Philae had fallen asleep, never to awaken.
Rosetta remained in orbit until September 30, 2016, at which point it was directed to crash land on the surface of the comet, marking a dramatically fitting end to so ambitious and inspiring a mission. Touchingly, mere weeks before Rosetta finished its mission, the spacecraft was able to finally locate the then-silent Philae lander, with which it had spent 10 years travelling the solar system before finally catching up to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
During their time studying the comet, the dynamic duo collected vast quantities of data and high-resolution imagery that revealed a hauntingly bleak, palpably ancient, and, as it approached the Sun, hazardously active portrait of the enigmatic heavenly body.
With the final release, ESA has completed its Rosetta data and image archive, which is available to the public through the agency's Archive Image Browser and Planetary Science Archive. The Archive Image Browser contains almost 100,000 images taken by the probe's narrow and wide-angle cameras, as well as shots from the spacecraft's Navigation Camera. Meanwhile, data from the 11 science instruments that made up Rosetta's scientific payload can be accessed through the Planetary Science Archive.
The final instalment contains images that were captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS camera between late July 2016 up to the end of the mission on September 30. These shots represent the most detailed imagery captured by Rosetta of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as the explorer made its inexorable approach to the comet's surface.
Poignantly, the final addition also includes the image in which mission scientists were finally able to pinpoint the resting place of the Philae lander, captured just weeks before the 12-year mission came to a dramatic, and for many, emotional climax. The update also includes shots of the terrain in which Rosetta was, mere moments later, to finally rest its weary solar panels. This image was reconstructed by the team from data transmitted from the spacecraft when it was a mere 20 m (66 ft) from the comet's surface.
Scroll down to view an ESA video showcasing some of the last images sent back to Earth from the Rosetta spacecraft.
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