The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Tuesday that its historic comet-chasing mission Rosetta had been extended until the end of September 2016.
“ESA’s Science Programme Committee has given formal approval to continue the mission for an additional nine months,” ESA said.
In a final flourish, the spacecraft may be “landed” on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet it has been following, the agency said in a press release.
Launched in 2004, the mission has been applauded as a milestone in the exploration of space.
It comprises an orbiter, Rosetta, and a robot lab, Philae, which seek to unveil the secrets of comets — primordial clusters of ice and dust that may shed light on the formation of the Solar System and on how life developed on Earth.
After a 10-year chase, the pair caught up with 67P last August.
In November, Philae was landed on the comet surface, and in a dramatic 60-hour episode carried out a range of experiments before its stored battery power gave out.
But the 100-kilo (220-pound) lab has now revived, thanks to sunlight bathing its solar panels as the comet hurtles towards the Sun.
Both Rosetta and Philae will have a grandstand view when 67P reaches perihelion, its closest point to the Sun, on August 13, scientists hope.
The comet will then loop back into deep space, beginning another six-and-a-half-year trek around our star.
The mission had been nominally funded until the end of December 2015, and its extension was not a surprise.
By the end of September 2016, “as the comet moves far away from the Sun again, there will no longer be enough solar power to run Rosetta’s set of scientific instrumentation efficiently,” ESA said.
“At (this) point, the spacecraft will most likely be landed on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.”
USA mystified by ’15 Donald Trumps’ jibe at Rugby World Cup
USA coach Gary Gold said he was mystified by a comment from England's Eddie Jones that the Eagles would play like "15 Donald Trumps" when they meet at the Rugby World Cup.
"I've absolutely no idea what he means by that," Gold said, ahead of Thursday's game in Kobe.
"We're just a team that's really got to focus on our own processes at the moment. We've got to worry about what we do when we get onto the rugby field.
"At this stage, with all due respect, we're not a good enough rugby team to be making comments or answers to questions like that. I don't know what it means."
‘Absolutely disgusting’: Trump slammed for trolling Greta Thunberg climate speech
US President Donald Trump stirred up fresh outrage on social media Monday with a tweet mocking an impassioned speech made by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg at the UN climate summit in New York.
Her voice shaking with emotion in an address that was the defining moment of the summit, Thunberg accused world leaders of betraying her generation by failing to act on rising emissions, repeating the words "how dare you" four times.
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet I'm one of the lucky ones," she said. "People are suffering. People are dying."
Pulitzer Prize-winner reveals why the White House thinks Trump’s Ukraine scandal ‘can be spun as positive’
Despite the growing movement for impeachment, advisors to President Donald Trump believe the bombshell reports about soliciting foreign election interference from Ukraine can be "spun as a positive" for the president's 2020 re-election campaign.
Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for The Washington Post, was interviewed about the thinking of Trump's advisors by MSNBC's Steve Kornacki on Monday.
"This is a White House, a Trump White House, that is used to being under siege. There was of course the two-and-a-half-year saga with the Mueller investigation culminating in the Mueller report, Mueller’s testimony recently. There have been a million other controversies, flare-ups, moments when the White House was forced to defend a comment from the president, allegation against the president, these sorts of things," Kornacki noted.