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.
A lot has happened in Space or related to Space recently and the future is looking very bright.
Below is a summary of some of the recent news and upcoming events.
SpaceX and Boeing awarded CCtCap contracts – We now have two companies contracted to build manned spacecraft to deliver crew to the ISS. Currently only two other countries have the ability to do this. See my full article on the awards here.
ULA and Blue Origin announce BE-4 engine – Following pressure from various sources ULA have announced they are going to partner with Blue Origin to build the engine which will allow them to move away from the Russian RD-180 engine for Atlas. Full article include specs can be found here.
Mars Orbiters arriving soon – This Sunday NASA’s Mars Maven orbiter will be arriving at the planet and next Wednesday India’s Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft is also expected to arrive. They will join three other orbiters currently at Mars and the two active Rovers on the surface.
ESA Rosetta Lander Philae has a landing site – The European Space Agency has announced the landing site for Philae which is part of the Rosetta mission. This will be the first time a vehicle has landed on the surface of a Comet. For more information on the mission check out the excellent ESA Blog for Rosetta.
First 3D Printer heading to space – Early tomorrow morning SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission is scheduled to lift off, on board will be the first 3D printer to go into space. The possibilities this opens up for the future are immeasurable. For more information on the printer check out this page. We will be posting an update tomorrow morning following the launch of CRS-4.