Humans land spacecraft on comet for first time ever (Wired UK)


European Space Agency


The Philae lander has become the first spacecraft to
successfully land on a comet, in a landmark moment for the European
Space Agency.

The probe completed the incredibly complex manoeuvre at this
afternoon, after being deployed from the Rosetta spacecraft earlier
in the day.

The probe’s mission on the comet will be to ultimately help us
understand more about the origins of our Solar System and the
development of Earth and other planets. Comets are the most
primitive objects it is possible for us to reach and consist of
material left over from the formation of the Solar System that has
been pristinely preserved over time.


Artist’s impression of Rosetta

European Space Agency


The comet itself is around 6.5 million km from Earth and it has
taken Rosetta over ten years to reach it. Rosetta studied it from
all angles for landing sites — it is 4.1km long at its widest
point — and a number of potential sites were identified and
deliberated over. Landing on the chosen site was an incredibly
complex task that required a lot of maths required with a bit of
luck

Philae successfully separated from Rosetta, which has been
orbiting the comet since August, at around 8.35 this morning. At
around 11.10am the team on Earth managed to establish a signal with
Philae so that it could feed back pictures and information about
its descent. The announcement that the spacecraft had landed safely
was made at 16.04 this afternoon.

The probe is expected to send the first pictures back from the
surface of the comet in two hours time.

Speaking after Philae’s successful landing, director of the
European Space Agency Jean-Jacques Dordain described the
moment as “a big step for civilisation”.

“The biggest problem of success is that it looks easy,
especially for us who are not doing anything,” he said, praising
the hard work and dedication of all those involved in making
Rosetta’s mission a success. In all, 20 countries contributed
expertise to the project, which was the only way the ESA had been
able to achieve such an ambitious feat. “The only way to reconcile
risk and success is expertise,” he said.

Today we have demonstrated the power of this by landing a
spacecraft on a comet, he added. “We are the first to have done
that, and that will stay forever.”

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12 November 2014 | 4:05 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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