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Mission Accomplished: Rosetta Probe Crash-Lands on Comet

Alyssa Newcomb
Rosetta spacecraft successfully crash-lands on comet

Cheers erupted at the European Space Agency on Friday as the Rosetta spacecraft — which traveled 4 billion miles over the course of a decade — made a crash-landing onto the icy comet it has been orbiting for the past two years.

After catching up to Comet 67P and conducting scientific measurements of the rubber-duck shaped ball — bringing back important data to Earth — the probe fired its thrusters into the comet for the final time to get close-up measurements. It also ended Rosetta's run as an orbiter.

The mission was announced over at around 7:20 am ET.

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"Today, we got more out of this mission than we ever thought," said Gerhard Schwehm, who was Rosetta's mission manager until his retirement in 2014. "It's a great day. With all of these happy scientists, we must have done the right thing."

Other scientists joked that Rosetta was now a "Sleeping Beauty," which they hope one day could be awaken in a future space mission.

Rosetta, and its companion Philae lander, have given scientists a trove of information to help shed new light on the beginnings of the solar system. Here's a look at a few memorable moments from the mission.

Flight director Andrea Accomazzo smiles in the control room at the European Space Agency ESA in Darmstadt, Germany, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.
Michael Probst | AP

Catching up to a Speeding Comet

Rosetta made history when it reached Comet 67P on August 6, 2015, marking the culmination of a 10-year, four-billion-mile journey. Its Philae landed on Comet 67P on November 12, 2014.

While the event was historic, Philae had a bouncy landing, coming to rest in a position that obscured some of its solar panels. The landing spot led to Philae having intermittent contact with Rosetta, which was its line of communication back to Earth.

This Comet Sings

Scientists were expecting to see a lot on Comet 67P, but they never expected it would greet them with a song. It's believed the song comes from oscillations in the comet's magnetic field, according to the ESA.

Going Beneath the Surface of 67P

You'd expect the interior of a comet to be stone cold, but Rosetta has a soft side.

Using radio waves, Rosetta and Philae were able to give scientists a picture of what the interior of the comet looks like.

Comets are mixtures of dust and ice. However, scientists were surprised to learn 67P is porous and comprised of fluffy dust particles mixed with ice, proving the old comet is a big softie inside after all.

Mystery Deepens: How Did Earth Get Its Water?

One of the most surprising findings challenged the theory that water was brought to Earth by comets. Rosetta's instruments analyzed the signature of water vapor on 67P and determined the comet's water wasn't a match for the structure of Earth's H2O.