Rosetta will collect science data until the very end of its descent on Friday. The opportunity to study a comet at such close proximity makes the descent phase one of the most exciting of the entire mission.
A summary of the goals of the instruments that are operating during the descent are provided below:
Artist's impression of Rosetta descending to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 30 September 2016. Credits: ESA/ATG medialab
During the descent to the small comet lobe from an initial starting point of an altitude of around 19 km, the OSIRIS cameras (both narrow- and wide-angle) will first image the regions of the large lobe that it passes over. As the spacecraft approaches the small lobe, the cameras will target the walls of the Ma’at pits. The very high resolution data of these features will provide important information for our understanding of how activity is driven on the comet and maybe how the comet was formed in the first place.
In order to downlink the highest possible number of images in the limited time available before the spacecraft impacts the surface, especially in the final stages of the descent, the images will be highly compressed, up ...