Rosetta’s Philae Lands On Comet
The European Space Agency’s Philae has become the first probe to ever land on a comet. The mission was conceived in the 80’s, and the rocket carrying Rosetta and Philae launched in 2004. After orbiting the Earth and Mars several time, and hibernating for over 3 years, Philae has finally made contact with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The descent to the surface of the comet took over 7 hours to complete. It was planned that Philae would travel to the surface at a speed of 1 m/s and grab on to the surface using four ice-hooks. There was an issue with a thruster that would be used to prevent recoil, however it is expected that the probe is in good condition.
Philae is going to be used to take high resolution pictures and panoramas of the surface of the comet, and serve as a lab to analyze surface samples. The probe is equipped with a 23 cm drill that will be used to analyze the composition of materials below the surface.
Philae is expected to operate until August of 2015. By that time it is likely that the onboard components of the probe will become too hot to function properly.