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Matt Taylor explains decision to end Rosetta mission

With the European Space Agency’s Rosetta project having come to a dramatic end, project scientist Matt Taylor opened up to U.K. publication The Guardian in a revealing interview on what may be next for ESA after the comet-chasing spacecraft crash-landed into 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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The Rosetta spacecraft was launched in 2004, and created a buzz several times in the years that followed. Philae lander on 67P, and hoping to find more information on the ingredients for life on Earth. And while Philae was lost and Rosetta came to an end when it crash-landed on 67P’s surface last month, Matt Taylor is optimistic about the future, which will include analysis of the data gathered by the spacecraft.

Speaking to The Guardian shortly before the crash-landing, Taylor told the publication that the science behind the mission is “continuing,” and will do so for the years to come. He said that the team at the European Space Operations Centre in Germany will “continue their careers” crunching Rosetta data, as there had been a lot of data collected in the past 12 years.

Quite interestingly, Taylor explained that “science” was the main reason why Rosetta had ultimately crash-landed into 67P, destroying the craft after 12 years of service.

“It wasn’t to give my colleagues here in ESOC a toy to play with to fly around a comet, although they have done a very good job,” said Taylor. “It was for the science and that is what we are celebrating here. This final plunge is allowing us to get to a region above the comet that we would never have been able to get to otherwise. The plunge is the only way to get this low – to where the ice becomes the gas. It was one of the goals of the mission to study this and this is how to do it.”

Rock music fan Taylor also told The Guardian that the decision not to hibernate Rosetta and bring it back after a few years was similar to his experience watching bands unable to perform up to par with new singers. He said that these bands should have quit while still ahead, comparing this to what the Rosetta team did to the spacecraft. According to Taylor, it wouldn’t be sure if Rosetta would still be functional if brought back after years of hibernation, especially since it’s been in space for 12 long years. That, he says, justified the decision to end the mission with a literal bang.

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