Europe makes space history as Philae probe lands on comet


**Europe makes space history as Philae probe lands on comet

(Reuters) - The European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe on a comet on Wednesday, a first in space exploration and the climax of a decade-long mission to examine up close the remnants of the birth of Earth’s solar system.**

The 100-kg (220-pound) lander - virtually weightless on the comet’s surface - touched down on schedule at about 1100 ET after a seven-hour descent from spacecraft Rosetta around half a billion kilometers (300 million miles) from Earth.

During the launch, harpoons designed to anchor the probe, named Philae, failed to deploy and the ESA is having to consider options for refiring them to ensure it does not drift back into space.

Scientists hope that samples from the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will help show how planets and life are created as the rock and ice that make up comets preserve organic molecules like a time-capsule.

Comets come from the formation of Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old solar system and scientists believe they may have brought much of the water in Earth’s oceans.

“How audacious, how exciting, how unbelievable to be able to dare to land on a comet,” NASA’s director of Planetary Science, Jim Green said at the European Space Operations Center in Germany after the landing was announced.

Manmade craft have now landed on seven bodies in space: the moon, Mars, Venus, Saturn’s moon Titan, two asteroids and comet Tempel-1, which was hit by a NASA probe.

Among several records set by the mission, Rosetta has become the first spacecraft to orbit a comet rather than just flying past to take pictures.

Rosetta reached the comet, a roughly 3-by-5 km rock discovered in 1969, in August after a journey of 6.4 billion km that took 10 years, five months and four days - a mission that cost close to 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion).

“What really nails this experience for me are the images,” Daniel Brown, an expert in astronomy at Nottingham Trent University, said via email after three-legged Philae had relayed data and images back to Earth as it moved towards the comet.

“Especially exciting will be getting the results of the samples recovered from below the surface and seeing their chemical composition,” he said.


I also read that the harpoon anchors did not fire. Hopefully it won’t go flying off the surface!


**BBC - Analysis by Science editor David Shukman

Landing on the small strange world of a comet ranks as one of the greatest achievements in space exploration. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would obviously take pride of place.

People might debate the relative prowess of robotic rovers driving on Mars or the Voyager spacecraft edging out of the solar system.

But touching down on a primordial lump of rock and ice that dates from the earliest days of the Solar System - and which is hurtling through space at 34,000 mph - is a genuine triumph by any standards. **

Dreaming up the plan 25 years ago, enduring 10 years of journeying through space, handling the tension of edging close to the comet more than 300 million miles away - all these are remarkable in their own right.

Rosetta’s orbits around the comet are generating unexpected insights. But landing will help achieve a dream of establishing invaluable ground truth about a body that previous generations could only gawp at in wonder or terror.


…and yet all they have to do is open the Bible for the origin of our species…much cheaper then sending a robot into space :slight_smile:


But it is so much fun seeing what the comet looks like very, vary, very, close up ! ! ! :smiley: :bounce: :whacky:


NASA sent a note of congratulations with a PS asking them how they managed to not have it blow up on the pad.



40,000 MPH. Wow…!:eek:


And the landing app took into account the comets spin and distance quite well also.

…and the rocket didn’t blow up.


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