Touchdown! For Rosetta

Posted on 12 Nov 2014 by The Manufacturer

Confirmation that Rosetta has landed successfully reached us at 16:08 GMT. Landing on a comet that is travelling at 34,000 mph is a major achievement in mankind's history.

Celebrations were heard from the European Space Agency (ESA) control room when the probe’s detachment from the Rosetta orbiter was confirmed shortly after 9am.

The agency tweeted: “SEPARATION CONFIRMED #SEP ESA confirms @Philae2014 Lander has separated from @ESA_Rosetta. Lander now enroute to #CometLanding”.

The first signal from the detached lander came two hours later, but scientists have admitted the rock’s surface appears more challenging than expected.

After a seven hour wait, the signal broke. From the mission, the team in charge of the achieved what at times seemed an impossible task by landing a robotic spacecraft on a comet for the first time in history.

Scientists had their first chance in history to visit a comet and study one close up.

This is a massive feak for ESA, the company that launched the Rosetta spacecraft over 10 years ago from its Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. Since blasting off in March 2004, Rosetta and its lander Philae have travelled more than six billion kilometres to catch up with the comet which orbits the sun at speeds up to 135,000km/h.

Philae boomed for its home by firing harpoons to secure itself on the comet and by tiwsiting ice screws that were fitted to its feet. “We are there, we are sitting on the surface,” said a jubilant Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager at the DLR German Space Centre.

Andrea Accomazzo, Rosetta flight operations director, said: “We cannot be happier than we are now.”

Touch down for the lander played out 510m kilometres from Earth on a comet hurtling through space at 18km/s. Even radio signals travelling at the speed of light take nearly half an hour to travel from Earth to the spacecraft, making realtime control of the landing impossible. Instead, the entire descent was precalculated, uploaded and run automatically.

16:08 GMT

It may not have been as grateful as was hoped but Rosetta landed successfully at 4:08 GMT. Professor Mark McCaughrean from Esa reported that the mission was nearly called postponed in the early hours of the night.

After nearly a decade of planning and Rosetta finally sits on the surface of a comet travelling at 34,000 mph. Checks need to be made to determine the readiness on the lander before we can learn more about the origins of celestial bodies.

John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate says: “This achievement represents a breakthrough moment in the exploration of our solar system and a milestone for international cooperation. We are proud to be a part of this historic day and look forward to receiving valuable data from the three Nasa instruments on board Rosetta that will map the comet’s nucleus and examine it for signs of water.

“Small bodies in our solar system like comets and asteroids help us understand how the solar system formed, and provide opportunities to advance exploration.

“It’s a great day for space exploration.”