Categories: Astronomy

Touchdown! Philae Successfully Lands on Rosetta’s Comet

We did it! We’re on the comet! At about 9:37 a.m. (CST) Philae touched down on Rosetta’s Comet. After traveling more than 315 million miles (508 million km) the lander’s signal arrived 28 minutes later with the fabulous news. Telemetry is trickling in and the lander’s in great health, but one small concern has arisen. We’ve just learned that the harpoons used to anchor Philae failed to fire. Mission control is considering whether to refire them to make sure the craft is stable.

Philae is now at work on the comet after successfully harpooning itself to the surface. A huge congratulations to ESA! Credit: ESA

One might think that as long as the craft is sitting still on the comet, that will do. Well, maybe. Until it’s anchored, activity from nearby jets or even vaporizing ice beneath it could flip it over. After all, Philae only weighs a gram in 67P/C-G’s gravity field. The harpoons also house the instrument that measures surface density. Presumably, without them we won’t get that data.

ESA’s version of a Swiss Army knife, Philae will now probe the comet on many levels. Credit: ESA

Now that Philae has reached its target, science will begin in earnest. Here’s an illustration that describes each of the probe’s instruments. Be sure to click to enlarge.


Bob King

I'm a long-time amateur astronomer and member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). My observing passions include everything from auroras to Z Cam stars. I also write a daily astronomy blog called Astro Bob. My new book, "Wonders of the Night Sky You Must See Before You Die", a bucket list of essential sky sights, will publish in April. It's currently available for pre-order at Amazon and BN.

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