Rosetta mission: Philae lander on its way to comet surface

The European Space Agency’s mission to land a spacecraft on a comet for the first time is now in its final stages.

The Philae lander separated from the Rosetta orbiter at 08:35 GMT / 09:35 CET and its descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will take about seven hours, with confirmation of a successful touchdown expected at around 16:02 GMT / 17:02 CET.

The mission’s success could be threatened by a faulty cold thruster on top of the Philae lander, but Rosetta HQ in Darmstadt, Germany is confident that its three landing screws and two harpoons will help it successfully attach to the surface of the comet.

If the landing does go well, Philae will be able to carry out scientific experiments on the comet’s surface and send data back to Earth, hopefully revealing new information about how the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

To get live updates about the Rosetta mission, head to the European Space Agency website.