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Rosetta (European Space Agency)
Rosetta (European Space Agency)

The Rosetta spacecraft will crash into a comet and destroy itself. For science!


We'll be quite emotional when we finally see that last bit of data.
Christopher Carr, who works on the mission

For most space missions, crashing into a comet is a nightmare scenario.

For the Rosetta spacecraft, it's part of the mission plan. 

The craft, launched by the European Space Agency in 2004, gained worldwide attention when it launched a lander, Philae, into a comet. 

Philae landing: touchdown highlights

WATCH  | Relive the dramatic landing, in which Philae effectively harpooned a comet.

So why crash it at all? 

The ESA opted to crash Rosetta rather than let it fly around as space junk. But it's not even a guarantee it'll make impact - that still requires some precise calculations, and the team can't afford to miss. 

Plus, the ship's cameras will keep taking photos and thus providing valuable data right up until 50 feet before impact, <b>USA Today reports</b>.

rosetta impact.jpg

Here's a look at the planned impact target, <b>courtesy of the ESA</b>.

Philae was recently spotted on the comet, but Rosetta won't end up anywhere near it.

The last few hours, we will have absolutely unique data, there's a grand finale and then the fat lady stops singing.
Tamas Gombosi, University of Michigan

The Rosetta mission ended up being very influential for astronomy. Rosetta found organic molecules on comets, which fueled the theory that comets brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

It also found clues the universe was formed at a much lower temperature than previously thought.

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