Satnews Daily
November 13th, 2014

Getting to Know a Comet Up Close... + Personal... Rosetta's Philae Lander Successfully Sets Down... Congrats + Buzz — (update #6)

[SatNews] The Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two images from the lander's CIVA camera confirm.

Image copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The view is a two-image mosaic taken on November 12, 2014. The lander separated from the orbiter at 09:03 UTC (1:03 a.m. PST) for touch down on comet 67P seven hours later.

Rosetta and Philae had been riding through space together for more than 10 years. Philae is the first probe to achieve soft landing on a comet, and Rosetta is the first to rendezvous with a comet and follow it around the sun. The information collected by Philae at one location on the surface will complement that collected by the Rosetta orbiter for the entire comet.

Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.  Rosetta carries three NASA instruments in its 21-instrument payload.

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit: . For more information about Rosetta, visit .

Original touchdown story...

Touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Philae lander has been confirmed, as the Rosetta spacecraft continues this historic comet adventure.

Image is courtesy of the ESA's Rosetta blog.

Among the first to congratulate the European Space Agency is Space Foundation...

After a 10-year journey, Europe's Rosetta spacecraft made history today when its lander Philae successfully attached to its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency (ESA) launched Rosetta aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle in March 2004 out of the space center in Kourou, French Guiana.

While not the first spacecraft to visit a comet, Rosetta is the first to orbit one and the first to send a lander to a comet's surface. Rosetta's instruments will study the comet from orbit, while Philae will collect samples from the surface and take close-up photos.

"Today's successful landing by Rosetta's Philae lander, a major contribution to this mission by the German Space Agency (DLR), at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a tremendous accomplishment. We congratulate our partners at DLR and ESA for achieving yet another milestone during this ambitious mission," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham.

Artistic rendition of the Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander.

Image courtesy of European Space Agency.

It is hoped that Rosetta's findings will help scientists uncover some of the mysteries about how our solar system was formed. It is expected that the study of elements that make up 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will give scientists insight into the very earliest beginnings of our solar system. The spacecraft is named for the Rosetta Stone that allowed the deciphering of hieroglyphics and provided clues about ancient Egyptian civilization.

The European Space Agency's infosite is located at

The Space Foundation's infosite is reachable at

Released by Airbus Defence and Space:

Today at 17:03 PM (CET), the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt reported a successful landing, announcing: “Philae has landed!”.

Some seven hours before, the Philae lander had detached from the Rosetta spacecraft—developed and built for the European Space Agency (ESA) by Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, as prime contractor—to initiate its slow descent towards the surface of the comet. Airbus Defence and Space supported Philae´s team with electrical design, integration, testing and construction of the landing gear.
Traveling at a speed of one metre per second, the three-legged lander landed successfully in the target area. On Earth, Philae weighs in at around 100kg; on the comet, less than 2g. To stop itself from rebounding off the comet’s surface, Philae has a complex landing system with a damper, and dug itself in using two harpoons and three ice screws. Equipped with 10 scientific instruments, Philae is now ready to start its scientific work, having already gathered initial data during its descent. It is relaying data 490 million kilometers back to Earth via Rosetta.
“Philae’s successful landing tops off an already spectacular Rosetta mission. We at Airbus Defence and Space are extremely proud to have contributed to the Rosetta success story with our innovative concepts and designs, robust and reliable systems, and the dedicated work of employees both at Airbus Defence and Space and at all the other partners in the industrial consortium and ESA. This is a world first – landing on a comet travelling at 135,000 km per hour after a 10 year journey through our solar system, it is a truly amazing achievement,” said François Auque, Head of Space Systems.
The Rosetta mission will help scientists to understand how our solar system formed from primordial matter some 4.6 billion years ago. While the matter that ended up in the solar system’s planets has been transformed by solar radiation and geological processes, comets are “cosmic freezers” that have preserved this matter in its original state.

The Airbus D&S infosite is located at

Congratz just released by the UK Space Agency...

The UK Space Agency and UK scientists involved in Europe’s Rosetta mission are celebrating as the mission’s Philae lander has, on November 12, 2014, successfully made the first ever landing on a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.

Following separation from the Rosetta orbiter at 08:35 GMT this morning, Philae touched down on comet 67P at around 16:03 GMT. There were cheers and hugs at the control room in Darmstadt, Germany after the signal was confirmed.

Rosetta + the UK

With funding from the UK Space Agency and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Rosetta is a mission with significant UK involvement from industry and science. One of the main challenges for all the companies designing instruments for Rosetta has been to ensure the components remain intact for ten years, while the spacecraft makes its way to the comet, and then work perfectly when it gets there. Not an easy task!

Industry involvement

  • Airbus Defence and Space, based in Stevenage, was the major subcontractor for the Rosetta platform.
  • e2v, based in Chelmsford, designed and supplied the high performance imaging devices used in the Navigation Camera, OSIRIS narrow field and wide field cameras and VITRIS-M instruments on the orbiter and ROLIS and CIVA instruments on the lander
  • ABSL Space Products provided innovative batteries for the spacecraft and lander. These are smaller, lighter and much more reliable than the traditional nickel-cadmium batteries.
  • ERS Technology supported the development of many subsystems including the reactions wheels, solar array drive motors, Philae harpoon motors and developed the lubricant for the atomic force microscope on the Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System (MIDAS).
  • Technology created by CGI Group helped to explore some of the issues involved in such a long mission. The company was also involved in the development of the Rosetta on board software.
  • Moog provided tanks to store the helium used by the lander.
  • STFC’s RAL Space co-developed the Ptolemy instrument with the Open University and designed the thermal insulation for the GIADA and VIRTIS instruments as well as the Philae lander itself.
  • SciSys UK Ltd is responsible for the spacecraft Mission Control System development and maintenance. In recognition of this work on the Rosetta and the Beagle 2 missions, SciSys were awarded the title of “Innovator of the Year” by the UK Computing Awards for Excellence 2004.
  • Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) designed a wheel that will stabilise the probe as it descends and lands on the comet.
  • Telespazio VEGA was involved in many aspects of the Rosetta mission, from the overall design of the spacecraft to the on-board software.

Science involvement
UK scientists are involved in ten of the 21 experiments that Rosetta will carry out during its mission:

  • The Open University in collaboration with STFC RAL Space designed and built  the Ptolemy instrument on the lander and is contributing scientific expertise to the GIADA, MUPUS and SESAME instrument teams
  • The University of Kent will be helping to analyze the results from the OSIRIS instrument and have been involved in observing Rosetta’s target comet from ground-based telescopes to aid mission planning
  • Imperial College London and University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) supply the team studying the comet’s plasma.
  • Scientists at Oxford University are part of the science team for VIRTIS.
  • Queen Mary College at the University of London will be investigating the results of the CONSERT instrument.
  • Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast are part of the team observing Rosetta’s target comet using ground-based telescopes.

Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said, “This truly is a momentous day.  The Rosetta mission is once again making history, this time by deploying a lander on the surface of the comet.  We cannot underestimate just how much of a challenge and technical feat this has been to achieve.  UK scientists, engineers and industry have played a central role in its success and will inspire a generation of children to become involved in science. We look forward to the discoveries the Philae lander will make as it carries out its multiple experiments in the weeks and months to come.”

Ian Wright, Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University and Principal Investigator for the Ptolemy instrument, said, “Ptolemy represents British ingenuity at its best. The instrument was born out of a creative milieu that saw scientific enquiry meld with engineering capability to satisfy a burning desire to venture into the unknown. Landing on a comet is a first for space exploration. Our hope is that within a very short while we will have scientific data that not only helps to address some of the questions we set out to investigate, but which also justifies the long-term vision of UK funding agencies, as well as the support and encouragement from the two organisations that worked together to make the dream a reality—namely, the Open University and STFC RAL Space.”

Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive, in situ study of the comet, Philae aims to unlock the secrets within. The lander’s UK-led Ptolemy instrument will play an important role in Philae’s discoveries as it performs on-the-spot analysis of the composition of the ices and organic material within the comet.

The UK Space Agency infosite may be accessed via

NASA's John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate and a former astronaut, offered the following statement in regard to the ESA's successful comet landing...

“We congratulate ESA on their successful landing on a comet today. This achievement represents a breakthrough moment in the exploration of our solar system and a milestone for international cooperation. We are proud to be a part of this historic day and look forward to receiving valuable data from the three NASA instruments on board Rosetta that will map the comet’s nucleus and examine it for signs of water.

“The data collected by Rosetta will provide the scientific community, and the world, with a treasure-trove of data. Small bodies in our solar system like comets and asteroids help us understand how the solar system formed and provide opportunities to advance exploration. We look forward to building on Rosetta's success exploring our solar system through our studies of near earth asteroids and NASA's upcoming asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx. It’s a great day for space exploration."

For information about NASA's role in the Rosetta mission, visit:

To learn more about NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-Rex, visit: