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European Spacecraft Lands Safely On Comet

For the first time an unmanned space craft has safely landed on a comet! The European Space Agency has announced that the 220 pound Philae lander has touched down on the space comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Hundreds of millions of miles from Earth the Rosetta spacecraft released the “washing machine sized” lander on the icy surface of the 2-1/2 mile wide comment that was traveling at a speed of 41,000 miles per hour. European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft that launched a decade ago and landed on the comet would have finished a trip of over 4 billion miles!

What’s interesting and a headache for scientists and engineers on the program is the lack of real time instruction and reporting able to be performed on the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander. The distance form the Earth is over 310 million miles away and a command to the spacecraft takes about 28 minutes to reach it. (They must be using AT&T cellular service then LOL)

So how does the Rosetta spacecraft get up to the speed of comet?:

Rosetta, which was launched in 2004, had to slingshot three times around Earth and once around Mars before it could work up enough speed to chase down the comet, which it reached in August. Rosetta and the comet have been traveling in tandem ever since.

The comet was actually discovered in 1969 and this program will give researchers lots of valuable information on the origins of comets.