Today, November 12, 2014, spacecraft Rosetta’s Philae probe is set to make the first-ever landing on a comet when it touches down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
The Philae lander has separated from the Rosetta orbiter, and is now on its way to becoming the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet.
Separation was confirmed at ESA’s Space Operation Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany at 09:03 GMT. It takes the radio signals from the transmitter on Rosetta 28 minutes and 20 seconds to reach Earth, so separation actually occurred in space at 08:35 GMT.
The first signal from Philae is expected as soon as the lander establishes a communication link with Rosetta. Philae cannot send its data to Earth directly – it must do it via Rosetta.
Once the link has been established, the lander will relay via Rosetta a status report of its health, along with the first science data. This will include images taken of the orbiter shortly after separation.
The descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will take around seven hours, during which the lander will take measurements of the environment around the comet. It will also take images of the final moments of descent.
Confirmation of a successful touchdown is expected in a one-hour window centred on 16:02 GMT / 17:02 CET / 11:02am EST / 8:02am PST. The first image from the surface is expected some two hours later at approximately 18:00 GMT / 19:00 CET / 1:00pm EST / 10:00am PST
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