The European Space Agency (ESA)'s Rosetta space probe, that has been tracking a comet for the past two years, is all set to end its historic mission on Friday September 30, 2016.
However the notion that comets can serve as cosmic chemistry labs capable of creating the building blocks for life and seeding them on Earth received a boost from discoveries made during the Rosetta mission.
"We're all very excited", Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor told AFP at the mission control centre in Darmstadt.
"And this confirms another theory that asteroids actually brought water to our planet".
The mission veteran said Rosetta paved the way to understanding and observing comets. "So imagine yourself walking into a wall, at just walking speed". Rosetta will attempt to get images of the lumpy structures on September 30, when the spacecraft will target an area adjacent to a 430-foot-wide pit that the mission team has informally named Deir el-Medina.
ESA plans to execute the collision manoeuvre just before 5 p.m. EST Thursday.
At around 6:40 a.m. EDT (1040 GMT) today (Sept. 30), Rosetta is scheduled to crash-land intentionally on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ending the spacecraft's epic 12-year mission.
"Throughout this mission, Rosetta has viewed in unprecedented detail the changing surface of the comet and the material it has released".
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It has been a productive 12 years for the Rosetta space probe, but the end of the mission is near. "It will not stick immediately to the surface of the comet, but it will not bounce back into orbit". "This makes these molecules like glycine universal - they have nothing to do with the Earth or the Sun".
"The data (transmission) will stop when the spacecraft is turned off at landing. I know many times I was sneezing or coughing", he said.
On its ten-year journey to the comet, the probe passed Earth three times (2005, 2007 and 2009), and flew by Mars once in 2007. IES gathered data about the interaction of the solar wind with the comet's expanding atmosphere, or coma.
Rosetta was launched in 2004 carrying 11 science instruments, with several contributions from NASA including: the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO); the Alice spectrograph; the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES); and the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS) electronics package for the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion Neutral Analysis (ROSINA). It became the first mission to orbit around a comet and, with its small Philae lander, the first to touch down on a comet's surface. This touchdown didn't go as planned; Philae's anchoring harpoons failed to fire, and the lander bounced twice before finally setting down for good in a shady spot that prevented it from recharging its main batteries with solar power.
"In the final descent, we will get into a region that we have never sampled before".
The exact instruments and data collected during Rosetta's final approach are still being finalized.