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No big deal, we just landed a robot on a comet

13 Nov 2014, 15:44 UTC
No big deal, we just landed a robot on a comet
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Yesterday, a robotic probe named Philae landed on the surface of a comet. That’s the first time humanity has ever attempted a comet landing, and for good reason it was an exciting occasion. Things didn’t quite go right: the probe bounced twice and seems to be resting on its side, though it is still in […]

Comet 67P as seen by the Philae lander on its approach yesterday. [Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS]Yesterday, a robotic probe named Philae landed on the surface of a comet. That’s the first time humanity has ever attempted a comet landing, and for good reason it was an exciting occasion. Things didn’t quite go right: the probe bounced twice and seems to be resting on its side, though it is still in contact with its parent orbiter Rosetta. As I said on social media yesterday, I’m really not sure how to properly emphasize how amazing it is to land an appliance-sized space probe on a 5-kilometer comet from 28 light-minutes away. Even with the problems they’re experiencing, that is an astounding accomplishment, not least because Comet 67P has nearly negligible gravity. None of the usual maneuvers for landing would work.
In any case, we’ll know more over the ...

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