PARIS: The European Space Agency (ESA) on Sunday said it had destroyed its last supply ship to the International Space Station, bringing a seven-year venture to a successful close.
The last of five robot delivery vessels that ESA pledged for the US-led ISS project, the Georges Lemaitre, burned up in a suicide plunge into Earth’s atmosphere, the agency said.
At the control centre in Toulouse, the end of the project was greeted with emotional scenes, according to an ESA tweet, while NASA sent its congratulations, also via Twitter.
The spaceship had separated from the ISS on Saturday at the end of a six-month mission to bring air, water, food and other essentials to the space station’s crew.
Nearly 11 meters (32.5 feet) long and weighing around 20 tons at launch, the so-called Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) have been a test bed for innovative technology.
After launch by an Ariane 5 rocket from ESA’s base in Kourou, French Guiana, they navigated their way to the ISS by starlight and docked automatically.
During their mission, they were used for storage and habitation, and their onboard thrusters boosted the altitude of the ISS, which is in low Earth orbit and plucked by lingering atmospheric molecules.