For the first time in human history we are landing on a Comet! Watch the live feed and you can follow the landing as it’s happening. It is expected to touch down at about 11:03 EST. The lander, named Philae, already detached from the Rosetta Spacecraft at about 4am EST, and is slowly moving toward the landing site. Once it gets close enough it will launch harpoons (yup you read it right) to grab onto the comet and pull itself down to the surface, snapping photos along the way.
The Science communication world has been following this story since the Orbiter arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August. Since then it has been orbiting the comet, snapping photos, studying it in detail, and choosing potential landing sites. The landing site chosen for today has been named ‘Agilkia.’
The maneuver is a difficult one, but it has been meticulously planned out and today we are ready to go.
There was a problem overnight that will make for a rocky landing. A malfunctioning thruster on top of Philae has the Scientists concerned, but they have decided to go ahead with the landing on schedule. The function of the thruster is to counteract the upward force during the harpoon launch.
“The cold gas thruster on top of the lander does not appear to be working so we will have to rely fully on the harpoons at touchdown,” says Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center. “We’ll need some luck not to land on a boulder or a steep slope.”
Alright let’s see them make history!