Today the European Space Agency and it’s partners around the world successfully landed the Philae spacecraft on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
The Philae lander was launched on 2 March 2004 aboard ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft which has travelling billions of miles since then and has been in orbit around 67P since August this year (see previous post).
Following selection of a landing site based on the images gather by Rosetta while in orbit the lander detached at 08:35 UTC this morning and spent seven hours lowering itself to land. Due to the distance from Earth confirmation of the different events took ~28 minutes, ESA confirmed that Philae touched down as expected and initially thought that the landing mechanism needed to secure the lander in place had been successful.
Later it was confirmed that while the lander is on the surface the landing was softer then expected and the landing harpoons had not actually fired. They are evaluating the options to ensure they can complete the landed part of the mission. Due to the lack of gravity the lander will not stay in place without the harpoons attaching to the surface.
Update: ESA have reported that they have been getting intermittent communications from the lander once it was on the surface. They have some data that could indicate that they may have bounced off the surface again and was moving, they are looking into this further to determine if this is the case. About two hours after the first landing indications the movement of the lander stopped which means they could have landed again on the comet.
We will update this article we when have further news on the status of Philae.