13 November 2014 - Space probe lands on comet
Space probe lands on comet, fails to anchor down
Reuters (The Chicago Tribune)
The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet on Wednesday, a first in space exploration and the climax of a 10-year-odyssey, but an anchoring system problem may hamper planned investigations into the origins of Earth and the solar system.
The 220-pound lander - virtually weightless on the comet's surface - touched down on schedule at about 11 a.m. ET after a seven-hour descent from its orbiting mothership Rosetta, now located a 300 million miles from Earth.
But during the free-fall to the comet's surface, harpoons designed to anchor the probe, named Philae, failed to deploy. Flight directors are considering options to ensure the lander does not drift back into space.
Steve Connor (The Independent)
It was audacious, it was bold, but it was a success. For the first time, humanity has a physical presence on the icy surface of a passing comet – cosmic objects that have both fascinated and terrified human beings since the dawn of history.
The presence comes in the shape of a fridge-sized robotic probe named Philae which separated yesterday as planned and on cue from its mother ship, the Rosetta spacecraft launched more than 10 years ago.
A few minutes after 4pm British time, the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed after an anxious wait of seven hours following its separation from Rosetta that Philae had landed on Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko, orbiting the Sun more than 510 million miles away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.
Ian Sample and Stuart Clark (The Guardian)
The £1bn ($1.58bn) Rosetta mission aims to unlock the mysteries of comets, made from ancient material that predates the birth of the solar system. In the data Rosetta and Philae collect, researchers hope to learn more of how the solar system formed and how comets carried water and complex organics to the planets, preparing the stage for life on Earth.
Space agencies have sent probes to comets before, but not like this. In 1986, Nasa’s Ice mission flew through the tail of Halley’s comet. In 2005, the agency’s Deep Impact spacecraft fired a massive copper block at comet Temple 1. But none before now has landed.
The feat marks a profound success for the European Space Agency (ESA), which launched the Rosetta spacecraft more than 10 years ago from its Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. Since blasting off in March 2004, Rosetta and its lander Philae have travelled more than 6bn kilometres to catch up with the comet, which orbits the sun at speeds up to 135,000km/h.
Sarah Knapton (The Telegraph)
17.00 Oh dear! It seems the anchors did not shoot properly so the scientists have no way of knowing at the moment if the probe is secured on the comet. The Philae team is considering whether to fire them again. The problem with doing that is that gravity is very weak and the motion could shoot the probe back into space. Another tense wait.
16.55 First pictures will be back from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko within the hour
16.50 So what happens now? Philae only has battery power to last 2.5 days so it must get its main scientific observations out off the way quickly. After that it must rely on solar power but if the comet becomes more active the ice and dust clouds thrown up could cover the solar panels bring the project to a halt.
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"13 November 2014 - Space probe lands on comet", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), novembre 2014. Consulté le 29/11/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/key-story/archives-revue-de-presse-2014/13-november-2014-space-probe-lands-on-comet