Spacecraft lands on comet 4 billion miles away An artist's concept of Comet Siding Spring approaching Mars, shown with NASA's orbiters preparing to make science observations of this unique encounter. The Rosetta space probe appears at left (Reuters / NASA / ESA)
Spacecraft lands on comet 4 billion miles away
Lexile

Hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, a spacecraft made history Wednesday. It landed on the icy, dusty surface of a speeding comet. It was an audacious cosmic first. The mission is designed to answer big questions about the origin of the universe.

Paolo Ferri is head of mission operations for the European Space Agency. He said the landing on the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko appeared to have been almost perfect.

"Everyone cried," he said.

The European Space Agency celebrated the cosmic achievement. The agency had sweated through a tense seven-hour countdown. It began when the Philae lander dropped from the agency's Rosetta space probe. Both it and the comet were hurtling through space at 41,000 mph.

ESA controllers clapped and embraced at mission control in Darmstadt, Germany. That came after the Rosetta space probe had successfully released the 220-pound Philae lander.

During the descent, scientists were powerless to do anything but watch. That's because the vast distance to Earth, 311 million miles, made it impossible to send instructions in real time.

Finally, the agency received a signal from Philae. It had touched down on the comet's icy surface.

Further checks are needed. The agency must determine the state of the lander. But the fact that it is resting on the surface of the comet is already a huge success. It is the highlight of a decade-long mission to study comets.

Scientists want to learn more about the origins of these celestial bodies. They have likened the trillion or so comets in our solar system to time capsules. That's because comets are virtually unchanged since the earliest moments of the universe.

Rosetta and Philae now plan to accompany the comet as it races past the sun.

The landing capped a 4 billion-mile journey. Rosetta was launched in 2004.

The lander should remain stuck to the comet forever, even after its battery and solar powered systems have shut down.

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COMMENTS (12)
  • logenm-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:22 a.m.

    I really liked how you included a picture of space things so we can understand the passage better.

  • domfi-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:22 a.m.

    I really like how you did the picture at the bottom.

  • maxcr-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:23 a.m.

    I liked learning about the spacecraft landing on comet I thought it was very interesting to me.

  • nicklo-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:28 a.m.

    I like how you included when it took off in 2004 because we wouldn't know how long it was.

  • nichos-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:31 a.m.

    I don't think it will stay there for ever because it my fall through. Cause I heard it on the news. Also it about a decade.

  • allysh-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:31 a.m.

    I wonder how they landed on the comet and knew what angle to go to without even getting a signal until they landed on the comet. Does the space craft have a button that helps the spacecraft to grasp on it?

  • kristinaf-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:31 a.m.

    It is so cool but at the same time it is scary. I have some questions to ask like how did it get started?Were did it come from? what is going to happen? What is every buddy going to do?

  • natalied-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:33 a.m.

    That was cool and luck!!! They said that all you could do was watch but I would had wanted o go up in space and actually see it live and in person. I mean it would be dangerous but you would have a great view.

  • matthp-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:34 a.m.

    This was cool because It was interesting ESA controllers clapped and embraced at mission control in Darmstadt, Germany. That came after the Rosetta space probe had successfully released the 220-pound Philae Lander it was also cool because The European Space Agency celebrated the cosmic achievement. The agency had sweated through a tense seven-hour countdown. It began when the Philae lander dropped from the agency's Rosetta space probe. Both it and the comet were hurtling through space at 41,000 mph.

  • sarahr-Kin
    11/13/2014 - 09:35 a.m.

    this Spacecraft thing is amazing and cool, but does everybody know about the science and the knowledge we have of space. We should take care of our planet because it is an amazing and exciting world. Sometimes even fascinating

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