“This is a big step for human civilisation” – the Rosetta mission successfully lands the Philae craft on a comet.
Confirmation of a successful touchdown took place ast 4:08pm GMT, following the separation of Rosetta from its lander, Philae, at 8:35am GMT.
Two hours after Philae separated from Rosetta the European Space Agency’s control room in Darmstadt, Germany, recieved the first signal from the lander. This confirms that data will be received from the lander, such as images.
Because of the length of time it takes for information to pass from Philae to Earth, the landing actually took place at around 3:30pm.
European Space Agency flight director Andrea Accomazzo said: “We can’t be happier than we are now. We have definitely confirmed that the lander is on the surface.”
However it was later confirmed that the lander’s harpoons had failed to fire, meaning the it was not tethered to the surface of the comet, as intended, and may have slowly bounced before landing for a second time.
The radio link was also lost “earlier than expected”, but the scientists running the project said they were confident that Rosetta would be back in contact the next morning.
ESA Director Thomas Reiter said: “Its aim, of course, to unlock the secrets hidden within the icy treasure chest of a 4.6bn years (old) object, to study its make-up and its history. To search for clues as to our own origins.”
Later, it emerged that scientists believed the probe could have bounced on impact.
Philae lander manager Dr Stephan Ulamec said: “Maybe today we didn’t just land once; we landed twice.”