The Philae landing craft successfully landed on Comet 67P yesterday as part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
Scientists at Mission Control in Darmstadt, Germany celebrated as they received the signal from Rosetta confirming the landing.
At a press briefing later, the news was confirmed, although it was also revealed that the harpoon mechanism designed to anchor the lander to the low-gravity comet had not worked. Telemetry from the craft appeared to indicate that it had, in fact bounced. A tweet from the offical @Philae2014 account this morning confirms that it actually bounced twice, in fact making three landings before settling on the surface of the comet.
Hello! An update on life on #67P – Yesterday was exhausting! I actually performed 3 landings,15:33, 17:26 & 17:33 UTC. Stay tuned for more
— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 13, 2014
The ESA has released a photograph by Philae of its new surroundings. The picture shows one of the lander’s legs next to what might be the side of a boulder, cliff face or the wall of a crater. If that’s the case, it may mean disappointment, as the landing site had been chosen so that the lander would have a view of the horizon. Critically, if the lander is not in the open, then it will not be able to recharge its batteries using solar panels.
A press conference is scheduled for 1pm today. Meanwhile, here are highlights from last night’s press conference.