After a 10-year journey, Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft made history today when its lander Philae successfully attached to its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency (ESA) launched Rosetta aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle in March 2004 out of the space center in Kourou, French Guiana.
While not the first spacecraft to visit a comet, Rosetta is the first to orbit one and the first to send a lander to a comet’s surface. Rosetta’s instruments will study the comet from orbit, while Philae will collect samples from the surface and take close-up photos.
“Today’s successful landing by Rosetta’s Philae lander, a major contribution to this mission by the German Space Agency (DLR), at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a tremendous accomplishment. We congratulate our partners at DLR and ESA for achieving yet another milestone during this ambitious mission,” said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham.
It is hoped that Rosetta’s findings will help scientists uncover some of the mysteries about how our solar system was formed. It is expected that the study of elements that make up 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will give scientists insight into the very earliest beginnings of our solar system. The spacecraft is named for the Rosetta Stone that allowed the deciphering of hieroglyphics and provided clues about ancient Egyptian civilization.
Follow the Rosetta mission at www.esa.int/ESA.