The ESA has confirmed it has lost contact with spacecraft Rosetta meaning it has crashed into the surface of Comet 67P, ending it's 12-year space odyssey.

"Mission Complete" the space agency tweeted in a variety of languages as the world watched live as the spacecraft slowly descended towards its final resting place.

Earlier, Rosetta captured a range of never-before-seen close up images of the comet during its 14 hour free fall.

Upon landing, it was shutdown by scientists in a controlled "death" for the probe that has been in space for 12 years. It will join lander Philae which it had earlier deployed to roam the surface before it became wedged in a crack in-between craters.



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Mission complete #CometLanding

— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta)

Earlier project scientist Matt Taylor told AFP: "Everything is going according to plan."

"We had a few small things going on this morning, but it was mainly due to people resetting computers or backing computers up. Everything's looking smooth."

The craft has been sending back close-up shots of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and "we're seeing some really nice images," said Taylor. "We just wait for the end now."

It was also meant to sniff the comet's gassy coma, or halo, and measure its temperature and gravity from closer than ever before.

Rosetta was sent into space in 2004 to launch robot lander Philae on Comet 67P while it travelled around the sun.

With the comet zipping through space at a speed of over 14km per second, it was programmed to make a "controlled impact" at human walking speed, about 90cm per second.

Mission scientists expect it will bounce and tumble about before settling - but Rosetta's exact fate will never be known as it was instructed to switch off on impact.

The ESA team in Germany watch the spacecraft descend towards the comet. Picture: AP Photo/Michael ProbstSource:AP
The ESA team in Germany watch the spacecraft descend towards the comet. Picture: AP Photo/Michael ProbstSource:AP


The comet chaser was never designed to land, but in the course of its mission scientists decided they would make the last bold move in an attempt to gather one final set of information from the comet.

It will be switched off on impact to ensure it doesn't keep trying to transmit signals that could interfere with later missions.

"You can see some of the flight control team, the people who work here in mission control, are beginning to get more emotional because they can see the end," Taylor said.

"People who work on mission control, their entire existence is based on making sure the spacecraft stays healthy, so they have to switch their head round. It's a 180-degree turn, now you're going to kill the spacecraft."

For the scientists like himself, who will sift through the data gathered for years, possibly decades, to come, there was also a sense of excitement, Taylor said.

"It's a bittersweet thing. There is something about the attachment, there's something about that spacecraft being there. I will feel a sense of loss, surely."

Another highlight of the final hours was the one-off chance to peer into mysterious pits dotting the landscape for hints as to what the comet's interior might look like.

The artist impression of the Rosetta. Picture: J. Huart/ESA via AP.Source:AP
The artist impression of the Rosetta. Picture: J. Huart/ESA via AP.Source:AP

The first-ever mission to orbit and land on a comet was approved in 1993 to explore the birth of our Solar System 4.6 billion years ago.

Rosetta and lander probe Philae travelled more than six billion kilometres over 10 years to reach 67P in August 2014.

Philae was released onto the comet surface in November of that year, bouncing several times, then gathering 60 hours of on-site data which it sent home before entering standby mode.

Comets like 67P are thought to contain primordial material preserved in a dark space deep freeze.

Insights gleaned from the $1.5-billion project have shown that comets crashing into an early Earth may well have brought amino acids, the building blocks of life.

Comets of 67P's type, however, certainly did not bring water, scientists have concluded.

- additional reporting by AFP