Touchdown! Philae lands on Comet

At 16:03 GMT, Earth received a signal confirming that the Philae probe has successfully landed on a moving comet 510 km from Earth.

This extraordinary achievement was preceded by a tense seven hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, including confirmation that the thrusters were not active, increasing the risk of the lander bouncing back into outer space.

The Rosetta orbiter relayed the information to Earth and it was picked up by the European Space Agency’s ground station in Malargue, Argentina as well as NASA’s station in Madrid, Spain.

Scientists cheered and embraced each other as the signals were received, then hastily focused once again on their computer screens as news broke that the harpoons to fasten the lander to the comet surface, had not fired. Scientists now think that the probe may have bounced after first coming into contact with the surface.

This spectacular achievement for space technology will give scientists the chance to ride a comet, and study what happens to the comet as it travels closer to the sun.

This is not the first time scientists have sent probes to a comet, but it is the first time a probe has landed.

Matt Taylor, a Rosetta project scientist was so confident the comet land was going to be successful, that he tattooed Philae landing on the comet onto his thigh.

See European Space Agency’s magnificent pictures, listen to the final media briefing or read the Guardian’s article about the landing and what it means for the future of science.


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