Space success: Philae makes historic touchdown on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko


At the moment of touchdown on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the landing gear will absorb the forces of landing while ice screws in each of the probe’s feet and a harpoon system will lock Philae to the surface. At the same time, a thruster on top of the lander was supposed to push it down to counteract the impulse of the harpoon imparted in the opposite direction. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

UPDATE: Hugs and applause in Mission Control at 11:05AM ET, the sure sign of a successful landing despite incredible odds. What an incredible day for space exploration! Nothing like this has ever been done in the history of mankind.



Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Watch live NASA TV coverage of the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta landing mission’s of probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Humans have never tried to do anything like this ever been before, ever. Let that sink in. When the ESA landing probe starts its daring touchdown maneuvers on the comet moments from when we're publishing this blog post, they'd better have a lot of good luck on their side.

On the incredible cosmic choreography involved, from SpaceFlight Now:

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter is set to deploy a lander named Philae on Wednesday for a seven-hour descent to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasmimenko, an unexplored world that is rife with danger for the oven-sized landing craft.

“It is realistic that there is a potential for failure, but I am very optimistic,” said Fred Jansen, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager.

Going into the mission officials predicted about a 75 percent chance of a smooth landing by Philae. But that was before scientists saw the comet up close, a look that revealed its nucleus was scarred with cliffs, boulders, towering rock protrusions and possibly made of two parts joined together.

“It’s not a nice round potato,” Jansen said. “It’s rough, it’s more difficult. But we’ve analyzed the terrain. We’ve analyzed the comet, and we are confident that the risks we have are still in the area of the 75 percent success ratio that we’ve always felt.”

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