The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully landed a spacecraft called Philae on a comet moving 34,000 mph. It’s an amazing first in space exploration.
ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain told a jubilant audience: “This is a big step for human civilization.”
Needless to say, the space engineers were jumping, clapping and hugging all around.
Rosetta began its ten year journey on 2 March 2004 when it was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket and reached the comet on 6 August 2014, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet.
The probe is named after the Rosetta Stone, a stele of Egyptian origin featuring a decree in three scripts. The lander is named after the Nile island Philae, where an obelisk was discovered with Greek and Egyptian inscriptions. A comparison of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone and the obelisk catalysed the deciphering of the Egyptian writing system. Similarly, it is hoped that these spacecraft will result in better understanding of comets and the early Solar System.
The Rosetta spacecraft also carries a micro-etched nickel alloy Rosetta disc donated by the Long Now Foundation inscribed with 13,000 pages of text in 1200 different languages.
Animation of the space landing, watch:
The spacecraft has been sending images back.
This photo is taken from 240,000km away.