In a first for humanity, a spacecraft just touched down on a comet. The European Space Agency’s Philae probe has been traveling toward a comet orbiting our Sun since 2004, and today it finally made the 7.5 hour jump from its orbit to surface.
The 220-pound probe landed on its three legs and then used a harpoon to anchor itself to the comet’s surface, which has very low gravity. It took the radio waves 28 minutes and 20 seconds to travel from the comet to Earth, meaning the ESA had to wait nearly a half hour before it knew the landing was successful.
The ESA will use Philae’s 9-inch drill and sensors to collect data for at least a week, but that time may be increased to months. What the agency finds will help scientists understand the composition and structure of comets, which are composed of rocks, frozen gas and ice. Just…
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