Comet Landing Live Coverage: First Image And Lander Troubles Revealed

Comet Landing Live Coverage: First Image And Lander Troubles Revealed

“We see the lander sitting on the rock!” The spaceship Rosetta and her lander, Philae, have landed! For the first time ever, a human-made spacecraft has landed on the surface of a comet, the 67P/Churyumov — Gerasimenko. Updating live: ESA says that the lander bounced but then landed again.

Picture: The first image from Philae’s descent, en route to the comet. On the top right corner you can see its leg.

2:27ET. That means that we will have to wait a day for new telemetry and, hopefully, images. See you in a few hours!

2:20ET. The communications link was lost earlier than expected but ESA scientists say they are not worried. Rosetta is now below the horizon and it’s now making a manoeuvre to regain contact. They expect to regain radio link in a few hours. This all seems like magic to me — it’s all happening more than 400 million kilometres away from Earth!

2:17ET. Bad news. The harpoons didn’t fire, so Philae bounced and was floating for a while. Good news. Later, telemetry indicated that Philae landed again.

2:13ET. First image from ROLIS (Rosetta Landing Imaging System): The approach to the touchdown point.

1:36ET. ESA has stopped its livestream, but we are keeping an eye on their other media.

1:19ET. Here’s a clever experiment that Philae and Rosetta will do together to analyse the structure of the comet’s nucleus: Phila will send low-frequency radio signals through the nucleus to Rosetta. Depending on how these signals change, scientists will be able to know what’s going on in there.

1:13ET. During the primary mission, Philae will take a full panorama of the landing site. Part of it will be in 3D. ROLIS (Rosetta Landing Imaging System) will be taking high resolution photos of surface under the lander. The probe will drill 23cm into the comet, grabbing material to feed to the on-board laboratory.

1:10ET. If everything is alright, the lander’s primary mission will last 2.5 days. But if we get lucky and the solar panels don’t get blocked by dust, ESA will be able to extend its mission until March 2015. That’s the limit. At that time the probe will be too close to the sun and it will stop operating because of the heat.

1:09ET. Telemetry indicates that the comet is on the surface (hang on, buddy!) and images are still being downloaded.

1:04ET. ESA is still analysing data about the harpoons and the small thruster that was going to counteract the recoil. They may have failed.

But during the final health checks of the lander before separation, a problem was detected with the small thruster on top that was designed to counteract the recoil of the harpoons to push the lander down onto the surface. The conditions of landing – including whether or not the thruster performed – along with the exact location of Philae on the comet are being analysed.

Comet Landing Live Coverage: First Image And Lander Troubles Revealed

12:54ET. You think I’m kidding, but it was delicious and now I want another one.

12:35ET. I need Matthew McConaughey to save me from the black hole in my belly.

12:31ET. This wait is killing me. Literally: I’m so nervous that I’m eating uncontrollably. I just made myself a delicious fried eggs and bacon sandwich. Is there cholesterol in space?

12:04ET. Still waiting for images. In the meantime, go watch the amazing short film that ESA produced to highlight the huge step forward that this landing means. Directed by Oscar-winning Tomek Bagiński, it stars Aidan Gillen—Littlefinger of Game of Thrones.

Comet Landing Live Coverage: First Image And Lander Troubles Revealed

11:42ET. ESA says that Philae made a soft landing, but they are making sure that the probe is securely attached to the comet. If they think that it’s not secure enough, they will fire the harpoons again.

11:40ET. Philae will be capturing other data, of course, in its quest to unveil the secrets of the formation of the Solar System, our own planet, and the origin of life itself.

11:33ET. We will be seeing multiple images of this. The ROLIS (Rosetta Landing Imaging System) camera will be taking close ups of the landing site. The CIVA (Comet Nucleus Infrared and Analyser) cameras will be taking panoramas, which will probably be the most spectacular shots.

11:21ET. Wow. 25 years since this was designed. It’s quite an amazing feat indeed.

11:17ET. Remember that, right now, Philae is sending images to ground control.

11:16ET. ESA and state officials now congratulating themselves (for good reason.) But I just want pictures!

11:11ET. “It’s a major milestone for humanity,” says ESA in their official statement. It’s stunning indeed. 20 European countries plus cooperation from other international partners (USA, Canada, and Australia) have managed to land a machine in a deformed rock automagically, with a communication delay of 30 minutes.

11:09ET. IT’S OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED. Philae is talking to mission control.

11:05ET. Judging from the stream, it seems we have received confirmation from the landed, but ESA hasn’t announced it officially yet.


10:32ET. We are almost there!! The landing could happen in the next minutes and we’ll receive the images sometime in the next hour.

09:52ET. Three more pictures of the Philae in its way to the comet from the Rosetta spacecraft.

Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface
Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface
Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface

9:24ET. We now have the first image from Philae; it’s of Rosetta, which is obscured some by the sun.

Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface

08:28ET. All the scientific data has arrived in perfect conditions, as expected, and now they are processing it.

08:00ET. First scientific data package from Philae is coming. But seems that we’ll have to wait 15 minutes more for its disclosure.

07:50ET. We’ll have the first pictures (NavCam) in one hour more or less.

07:26ET. Landing gear has been deployed.

06:06ET. Paolo Ferri, head of mission operations, confirms signal from Rossetta and Philae is back again.

Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface

04:05ET. Confirmed: The lander Philae has separated and it’s now flying to comet 67P/Churyumov — Gerasimenko. Philae may find data that will help us understand how the Solar System was formed and even the formation of life in our planet.

03:56ET. We are now waiting for confirmation of the lander separation from its mothership. We will know if the separation went well in 30 minutes.

03:45ET. Live coverage has resumed.

03:36ET. Oh wait, I’m so sleepy I forgot there was a delay over the original counter. Separation should be at 4:03ET. Landing at 10:02ET, if all goes as expected. To wake me up I watched this video of a brain surgery, which grossed me out but I found incredibly fascinating — and weirdly satisfying.

03:25ET. Almost there. 10 minutes, according to ESA’s counter.

02:25ET. Mission control has confirmed that all systems are go and they have sent the commands to the lander for separation.

02:13ET. ESA has started their retransmission of the event. The lander is operating already, with its first instrument already working — ROMAP. It’s already starting to collect data on the comet’s magnetic field and plasma environment.

01:25ET. Here’s an image of what Philae will do if it successfully lands on the comet:

Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface

01:10ET. How big is this comet? Bigger than New York. Check out these images of the comet compared to a Boeing 747.

Comet landing live coverage: Waiting for first image from comet surface

00:58ET. We are two hours and 36 minutes from separation.

00:37ET. It’s really amazing that we have reached this point. Remember that Rosetta has been in space for years waiting for this moment. It spent a record 31 months asleep waiting for the moment to arrive. Now, Philae will attempt to land on the comet’s surface using a harpoon to study its surface. Here’s a video of how this will work:

00:21ET. According to mission control, all systems are go for the separation of the lander Philae. The official ESA stream is here.