Rosetta’s lander Philae has landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko! Keep following the live broadcast from ESOC at http://new.livestream.com/esa/cometlanding


Animation of Rosetta’s deployment of Philae to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

ESA’s Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved. After a tense wait during the seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the signal confirming the successful touchdown arrived on Earth on 11-12-14 at 16:03 GMT (17:03 CET).

The confirmation was relayed via the Rosetta orbiter to Earth and picked up simultaneously by ESA’s ground station in Malargüe, Argentina and NASA’s station in Madrid, Spain. The signal was immediately confirmed at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, and DLR’s Lander Control Centre in Cologne, both in Germany.

The first data from the lander’s instruments were transmitted to the Philae Science, Operations and Navigation Centre at France’s CNES space agency in Toulouse.

Rosetta_mission_selfie_at_16_km
Rosetta mission selfie at 16 km. Using the CIVA camera on Rosetta’s Philae lander, the spacecraft have snapped a ‘selfie’ at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from a distance of about 16 km from the surface of the comet. The image was taken on 7 October and captures the side of the Rosetta spacecraft and one of Rosetta’s 14 m-long solar wings, with the comet in the background. Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation. The comet’s active ‘neck’ region is clearly visible, with streams of dust and gas extending away from the surface. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

pia18874
ROLIS descent image of Comet 67P/C-G. Shortly before Philae’s touchdown on Comet 67P/C-G, the lander’s down-looking descent camera, ROLIS, imaged the surface of the comet. The image was acquired on 12 November 2014 at 14:38:41 UT, from a distance of approximately 3 km from the surface. The landing site is imaged with a resolution of about 3m per pixel. The ROLIS instrument is a down-looking imager that acquires images during the descent and doubles as a multispectral close-up camera after the landing. The aim of the ROLIS experiment is to study the texture and microstructure of the comet’s surface. In the upper right corner a segment of the Philae landing gear is visible. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

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A two-image panorama taken by the Philae lander from the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA

The landing site, named Agilkia and located on the head of the bizarre double-lobed object, was chosen just six weeks after arrival based on images and data collected at distances of 30–100 km from the comet. Those first images soon revealed the comet as a world littered with boulders, towering cliffs and daunting precipices and pits, with jets of gas and dust streaming from the surface.

Over the next 2.5 days, the lander will conduct its primary science mission, assuming that its main battery remains in good health. An extended science phase using the rechargeable secondary battery may be possible, assuming Sun illumination conditions allow and dust settling on the solar panels does not prevent it. This extended phase could last until March 2015, after which conditions inside the lander are expected to be too hot for it to continue operating.

Science highlights from the primary phase will include a full panoramic view of the landing site, including a section in 3D, high-resolution images of the surface immediately underneath the lander, on-the-spot analysis of the composition of the comet’s surface materials, and a drill that will take samples from a depth of 23 cm and feed them to an onboard laboratory for analysis.

For more images, check out this excellent New York Times photo journal of Rosetta’s journey.

SSERVI scientists have been intimately involved in the Rosetta Mission: Eberhard Gruen (IMPACT co-investigator) is a Rosetta Interdisciplinary Scientist (IDS) involved since writing the first version of the Rosetta proposal in the 1980s, and Mihaly Horanyi (IMPACT Principal Investigator) has been a co-investigator in the Rosetta Plasma Consortium since 1992 for dust and dusty plasma studies. Simone Marchi (SwRI co-investigator) is also on the team. SSERVI would like to congratulate our colleagues at SSERVI, NASA and ESA for this historic achievement.

The following statement is from John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, about the successful comet landing by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft:

“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 look forward to building on Rosetta’s success exploring our solar system through our studies of near earth asteroids and NASA’s upcoming asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx. It’s a great day for space exploration.”

For information about NASA’s role in the Rosetta mission, visit:

http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov/

To learn more about NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-Rex, visit:

http://science.nasa.gov/missions/osiris-rex/

Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff
Source: NASA/ESA

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