After ten years and billions of miles of travel, the Philae lander parted today from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft and landed on the surface of a comet. Philae landed on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 11 a.m. EST, marking the first time a man-made craft has made a soft landing on a comet.
The comet is traveling at about 34,000 miles per hour and Philae will send images and remain active on the surface for about two-and-a-half days, according to NASA. The Rosetta spacecraft will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015.
John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, commented on the potential of the landing in a statement.
“We congratulate ESA on their successful landing on a comet today. 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.
The data collected by Rosetta will provide the scientific community, and the world, with a treasure-trove of data. Small bodies in our solar system like comets and asteroids help us understand how the solar system formed and provide opportunities to advance exploration.”
We at Other World Computing are continuing to follow this story closely and are excited for the what Philae and Rosetta will uncover!