Philae Lander Successfully Touches Down on Comet

The ten-year project has been dubbed a success as the Rosetta Spacecraft successfully made contact with a comet 300 million miles away from earth earlier today. This effort started when researchers wanted to study comets to determine the effect they have on the earth, and what materials they may have introduced to our environment. This is a monumental moment as it is the first time a man-made vessel has landed on a comet.

The spacecraft used to accomplish this mission included Rosetta, the orbiter and Philae, the lander. The mission consisted of the craft traveling 4 billion miles, around the earth three times and Mars once, to gather enough speed to catch up to the comet, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is 2.5 miles wide. Once in range, Philae detached from Rosetta and began its seven hour descent to the comet. To attach itself to the comet, the lander used its pronged feet, that had special drills in the bottom of each, as well as harpoons and a propulsion system to ensure it did not rebound off the comet. Once landed, it will be able to drill into the comet and relay data back to Rosetta which is orbiting the comet and can send the information back to Earth.

If your student is interested in space or has recently seen the film Interstellar, learning more about the Rosetta project would be a great way to encourage that curiosity and learn more about our solar system.

Image Via ESA

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