Rosetta Mission Successful: Philae Lander Makes First Historic Landing on Comet

After the successful landing of the European robot Philae Lander, descending from its mothership after a 10-year journey, Rosetta mission has achieved a first historic landing on a comet on Wednesday.

As the Philae lander touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at about 1605 GMT, there were cheers and hugs at the control room in Darmstadt, Germany.

Earlier in the day, the lander has confirmed its separation from the Rosetta satellite at 8.35 a.m. GMT, and it had started heading for the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a large mass of ice and dust some 510 million km away.

Shortly after the touchdown was confirmed, Stephan Ulamec, the mission’s lander chief, said: "Philae is talking to us… we are on the comet." According to a media report, Ulamec has said, “It’s complicated to land on a comet … it’s also, as it appears, very complicated to understand what has happened during this landing or after this landing.” He reportedly added, “What we know is that we touched down, so we landed at the comet … we had a very clear signal there and we also received data from the lander, housekeeping data and also science data. That’s the very good news.”

Meanwhile, Philae was designed to throw light on some of the mysteries of these icy relics from the formation of the Solar System.

Scientists will use Philae to take pictures of the comet’s landscape and to analyse its chemical composition. They are hoping its surface materials will hold fresh insights into the origins of our Solar System more than 4.5 billion years ago.

The landing caps a 6.4 billion-kilometre journey that commenced a decade ago. The mission’s success marked a "first" in the field of space exploration, with no mission having made a soft landing on a comet earlier.

"This is a big step for human civilisation," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director-general of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The robot was due to deploy harpoons to fasten itself to the 2.5-mile-wide ball of ice and dust.

Comets almost certainly hold vital clues about the original materials that went into building the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago and it was considered that, if the mission is successful, it will provide an opportunity to sample a comet directly.

(With inputs from IANS)

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