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Rosetta space probe set to crash-land on comet September 30

  • The  photo released by ESA and taken by OSIRIS wide-angle camera on the Rosetta space probe on Nov. 22, 2014 from a distance of 30 km (18.6 miles) from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the faint jets of the comet's activity. After a journey lasting 12 years, a date has been set for the Rosetta spacecraft's final descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency says the probe will crash onto the comet Sept. 30, joining its sidekick Philae. The lander touched down nearly two years ago.   (ESA/Rosetta/OSIRIS via AP)

    The photo released by ESA and taken by OSIRIS wide-angle camera on the Rosetta space probe on Nov. 22, 2014 from a distance of 30 km (18.6 miles) from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the faint jets of the comet's activity. After a journey lasting 12 years, a date has been set for the Rosetta spacecraft's final descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency says the probe will crash onto the comet Sept. 30, joining its sidekick Philae. The lander touched down nearly two years ago. (ESA/Rosetta/OSIRIS via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • A single frame enhanced NavCam image provided by European Space Agency, ESA, and  taken on 7 January 2016, when Rosetta was 74.1 km from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The scale is 6.3 m/pixel and the image measures 6.5 km across. After a journey lasting 12 years, a date has been set for the Rosetta spacecraft's final descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency says the probe will crash onto the comet Sept. 30, joining its sidekick Philae. The lander touched down nearly two years ago. (ESA/ Rosetta/NAVCAM via AP)

    A single frame enhanced NavCam image provided by European Space Agency, ESA, and taken on 7 January 2016, when Rosetta was 74.1 km from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The scale is 6.3 m/pixel and the image measures 6.5 km across. After a journey lasting 12 years, a date has been set for the Rosetta spacecraft's final descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency says the probe will crash onto the comet Sept. 30, joining its sidekick Philae. The lander touched down nearly two years ago. (ESA/ Rosetta/NAVCAM via AP)  (The Associated Press)

After a journey lasting 12 years, a date has been set for the Rosetta spacecraft's final descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The European Space Agency says the probe will crash onto the comet Sept. 30, joining its sidekick Philae. The lander touched down nearly two years ago.

The agency said Thursday that the final descent will require careful maneuvers and offer a unique opportunity to take close-up images of the comet before Rosetta hits the icy surface at about 1.8 kilometers per hour (1.12 mph).

Scientists decided to steer Rosetta onto 67P because the probe is unlikely to survive lengthy hibernation in orbit as the comet heads away from the sun.

Data from Rosetta and Philae have improved scientists' understanding of comets and the role they played in the early universe.