Watch the Rosetta Space Probe's Historical Comet Landing Live
Today, the Rosetta Philae lander is set to land on a comet for the first time ever. If the mission is a success, then scientists from the European Space Agency and NASA could gain unprecedented insight into the origins of the universe.
Watch the live stream of the event below:
The landing will mark the end of a 10-year journey to the comet, during which Rosetta has traveled over 4 billion miles. In order to gain enough speed to reach the comet, the probe followed a slingshot trajectory three times around Earth and once around Mars. It reached the comet in August, and has been traveling alongside it ever since. Today, it released a lander called Philae, which will physically land on the comet and release two harpoons in order to anchor itself and gather data. The vessel is unmanned, and due to delays in information transmission, the agencies expect to receive confirmation of the landing at approximately 11:03 am today, although the lander was scheduled to reach the comet at 8:30 am.
This video from the European Space Agency confirms that Rosetta craft successfully released the Philae lander:
"Philae has gone. It's on its path down to the comet," said Rosetta flight director Andrea Accomazzo. "We are all glad that it worked flawlessly in the past minutes."
The event is somewhat nerve-wracking for the scientists on the project, as the time delays in communication make it impossible to send instructions in real time. As a transmission to Rosetta takes 28 minutes, if something went wrong, they would only be able to watch.
"It's on its own now," said Philae Lander Manager Stephan Ulamec.
If the Philae lander is successful, it will take the first ever close-up pictures of a comet's surface. It will stay active for two-and-a-half days, during which time it will also drill into the surface and transmit new information about the comet's composition and the nature of its nucleus. For the next two years, the Rosetta craft will gather data about the comet's behavior at varying distances from the Sun. From this mission, scientists hope to learn more about the origins of comets and stars.