Around 11am ET this morning, scientists at the European Space Agency confirmed that their Philae lander made contact with the surface of a comet named 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This marks the first time a craft has made a soft landing on a comet, allowing scientists to further study comets and what they’re made of, which could explain the formation of the solar system.
Philae left Earth in 2004, and connected with the ESA’s Rosetta orbiter, which just this morning released the lander as it began its 7-hour descent onto a 2.5 mile stretch of 67P. One unsuspected situation arose, in that the lander’s harpoons failed to fire. This means that although the lander has been confirmed to have touched the comet, there was no guarantee that it would stay there. As I write this, scientists are figuring out a way to compensate to make sure the lander stays with the comet.
The orbiter Rosetta has been following 67P for some time and has discovered a scent composed of rotten eggs, horse urine, and formaldehyde. Rosetta will continue following the comet until its mission ends in December 2015 when the comet will pass close to the sun. You can look in on ESA’s progress on their live update site here. Check out the gallery below for pictures.
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