Launched on March 2, 2004, the Rosetta orbiter travelled 6.4 billion km before reaching Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. In mid-November, the European Space Agency landed its robotic Philae probe on the Comet as part of the 10 year mission. This marked the first time such an extraordinary feat had been accomplished.
The landing site was chosen by the Rosetta orbiter after it took many photographs from as close as 10 km and extensively scanned the comet’s boulder-filled, daunting, and dust covered surface. After Philae landed, Rosetta resumed its orbit around the comet and will continue to follow it all through 2015.
Some people say this accomplishment may parallel the landing of men on the moon. From landing men on stationary objects, humanity has taken the next leap in space exploration: docking a robot on a fast-moving object. Now that Philae has docked with the comet, the ESA hopes to learn more about 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and from studying the comet, uncover clues about the creation of the solar system.
The landing of Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko represents an iconic moment in history and hopefully an insight into our past that can help shape our future.
– Tara Subramaniam