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RAS congratulates the Rosetta team for landing a probe on a comet

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 18:18
Published on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 18:13

The RAS congratulates the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Rosetta team for successfully landing the Philae probe on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Launched in 2004, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft travelled through the solar system for over a decade before making its rendezvous with the comet in August 2014. On 12 November 2014 Rosetta released the Philae lander, which subsequently landed on the surface and sent data back to Earth.

Philae landerThe Philae lander, imaged by the Rosetta spacecraft whilst on its descent to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA. Click to enlarge.

This is the first time mankind has landed a probe on a comet. At the time of writing it is unclear how well anchored Philae is to the comet, but the landing represents an astounding feat of technical skill and ingenuity.

Prof. Martin Barstow, the President of the RAS, said: "The Rosetta mission has been a tremendous adventure for the European Space Agency and the scientists involved. It has already proved to be a scientific success and promises to deliver much more over the next months and years. The riskiest part, landing the Philae spacecraft on the surface of the comet, has never been achieved before and I would like to send my congratulations for this amazing achievement. We look forward eagerly to the images and scientific results from the lander."

The Rosetta and Philae spacecraft will continue to take scientific measurements over the coming months, as the comet approaches the Sun. They will provide invaluable data on the nature of comets, the origin of water on Earth, and the formation of the solar system. Analysis will occupy scientists for years to come.