After ten years of waiting and a terrifying seven hour wait, the Philae probe has successfully made a soft landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the European Space Agency (ESA)! Not only is this noteworthy in terms of scientific research but it is a stellar engineering achievement as well. The comet and the vessel had to be going 34,000 miles/hr in which even the smallest of calculation errors could mean the end of years of work and money. Then the carrier had to launch the Philae probe down towards the comet where it would FREEFALL for seven hours before making contact on the comet’s SUPER HOSTILE AND MOUNTAINOUS surface.

Tweeted at 4:05am by the folks of the ESA Rosetta mission…and then they waited seven hours.

If the probe does not land on the ground, there is a high chance it would fall over and be useless. After what must have been a seriously awful night’s of sleep and a terrible breakfast, at around noon today, ESA have confirmed that the probe has INDEED LANDED!!!!

Watch the actual moment of landing below:

The 1.58 billion dollar project was dubbed “Rosetta” because scientists hoped to find the origins behind the formation of the solar system. Because comets are essentially made up of preserved “pre-solar nebula” matter, it contains particles that were frozen during from when solar systems are formed. Also scientists hope to find evidence of water and even organic molecules, which could then be spread onto other planets such as on Earth that could have provided the PRECURSORS TO BUILDING LIFE!

The probe is designed to drill down into the surface of the comet and then extract samples to be tested. Once aboard the Philae, instruments will take the samples, bake them, and analyze the composition of the gases it gives off.

Check out ESA’s animated landing of the Philae probe:

The mission is set to conclude in December of 2015 but if the fuel sources hold out on the probe, scientists hope the project can continue longer.

However there may be a little problem with the project prior to its completion. Scientists had designed a thruster system to help the probe move as well as a harpoon hooking mechanism to screw the probe into the comet that seem to have both failed. This could put Philae into a precarious position because there is nothing holding it on the comet’s surface so it could come loose in the low gravity at any moment and if it is knocked over, well, that would mean the end of the project as well.

Data from the probe shows that the harpoons did fire however ESA cannot confirm whether it has latched onto anything.

ESA - Rosetta Mission Lands probe on comet
Philae’s shot of its mothership shortly after separation. (Source: ESA/Handout/ESA/Handout/Corbis)

Regardless of whether Philae remains on the comet for a day or a year, this is still a REMARKABLE achievement and we tip our hats to each one of the members of ESA for their contribution into the scientific community.

ABOUT >> Mac Lemons
  • ACCOUNT NAME >> paranoidlemons
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