After waiting for 10 years for this moment, Philae landed on the comet with the unpronouncable name (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko).
I must say that this was almost as good a landing as Curiosity on Mars (Curiosity wins on degree of difficulty and doing more gymnastics to reach the surface).
Philae had a few points deducted from the landing for bouncing twice. Although the approach was good, apparently the harpoon designed to grab hold of the surface and the thruster used to push the probe firmly onto the surface did not function according to plan.
However, after a full two hours of time between the “first” landing and the second landing, Philae has managed to stay in one place, even sinking into the surface a little (about 4cm/1.5 inches).
Photo credit: Matt Wang, Flickr: anosmicovni. European Space Agency, showing unpronounceable comet size compare to Los Angeles
Considering how fast the Rosetta spacecraft is traveling (40,000mph), Philae was aimed really well. The descent to the surface was completely unpowered. Even with the size of the comet, about 2.5 miles, it was still a small target. Small you say! It looks gigantic to me! But you aren’t traveling faster than a speeding bullet, nor are you getting your instructions hours before you actually attempt to land without any power. Kind of like landing a 747 on an aircraft carrier blindfolded, or dropping water balloons from a tall building.
Congratulations to everyone that made this possible…now get to work…there’s science to be done.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +