Philae Has Landed on Comet 67P!

Update, November 14, 4:48 p.m. Pacific: Philae is in a location that doesn’t get enough sunlight to operate its solar panels. It is running on the power it left Rosetta with. The ESA has put it to sleep after getting as much science out of it today that they could. It can be woken up as needed (hopefully). Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has more about this.

Bouncing…who would have expected it to do that on a comet!

Update, November 13, 5:08 p.m. Pacific: Philae bounced three times during landing yesterday (a surface quality they didn’t expect the comet to have, it seems), and while Rosetta still can’t see it, per news reports, the lander is now in a depression near a cliff. There isn’t enough sunlight to power its solar panels, reportedly, and one leg is off the ground.


The ESA team may have decided to use the MUPUS instruments to move the lander – time will tell on that.

They deduced this from instrument readings, I guess, and this imagery from Philae:



Last image of Philae taken from Rosetta, a few minutes after separation.  ESA

Last image of Philae taken from Rosetta, a few minutes after separation. ESA

Here’s an ESA news release. So far, there are two tweets from Philae’s team:

Wow! Just…wow!



And there is this…location to be determined later:


And this…

Rosetta Comet Landing Livestream


Mission control for Rosetta and Philae.  ESA

Mission control for Rosetta and Philae. ESA

We’re doing this week’s Ad Astra post early because the European Space Agency is sending down the Rosetta mission’s Philae lander on Wednesday, November 12.

It’s going to attempt a landing on Comet 67P, according to the present schedule, at around 10:35 a.m. Eastern. Since there is a time delay due to distance (this is happening about midway between Mars and the asteroid belt), people on Earth won’t know if it worked until about a half-hour later.

No one knows what a comet’s surface is like, so we’ll all have to wait and see what happens.

The Livestream will be here, starting Tuesday. The ESA will have its webcast here, also starting Tuesday. NASA-TV will carry live coverage here from 9 to 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday and then will switch over to ESA coverage from 10 to 11:30.

The Sun



Never we know but in sleet and in snow,

The place where the great fires are,

That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth

And the heart of the earth a star.

— G. K. Chesterton, “A Child of the Snows”

Well, it is pretty hot in the Earth’s core, but there is a real star in our skies every day.

Mankind’s names for it vary across the inhabited lands of Earth.

In Mandarin, it’s called Tàiyáng, and in Japanese Taiyō. In Arabic, they call this star Al-Shams, while in Swahili it is Jua.

In the West, ancient Romans called it Sol. The Germanic tribes who fought them called it a name that has come down to us in English as the Sun.

We take the Sun – a G-type main-sequence star – for granted.

What if it disappeared?

Yeah, bad news for you and me.

That video explores a little bit of the Sun-Earth connection, but what exactly is the Sun? What’s going to happen to it, and us, in the future?
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Where in the Solar System Are We Today?


New Horizons sets off for Pluto.

New Horizons sets off for Pluto.

We’ve looked at the first scientist on the Moon, as well as at spaceports where the next step toward manned space flight is being prepared.

Meanwhile, in space…where are our unmanned Solar System exploration craft today?

Just about everywhere, it turns out.

The Planetary Society has the best one-stop website on space missions that I’ve found – you could get lost for hours there, checking it all out.

Below is an outline based on the Society’s information.

At the bottom of each section I have also posted the question that I’m most curious about. Over coming weeks, I’ll fill this outline out with posts on each Solar System member (as you’ll see, a few have already been covered).

The Sun

Here is our post about the Sun.

Planetary Society: Missions to study the sun

Ongoing missions:
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Guest Video: Exploring the Inner Solar System




In this six-part series, NASA Goddard’s chief scientist, Jim Garvin, gives a talk on what scientists have found out about Mercury, Venus, Mars, some near-Earth objects, and the Moon. He explains it in a way that helps us to understand our own planet better.


Time is a bit tight this week, so there will be guest videos through Thursday, and then a big post about firestorms on Friday.

Coming Soon to Your Area: A Spaceport


Rocket launch from Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Rocket launch from Kodiak Island, Alaska

When Neil Armstrong passed away, many of us first realized that no one has walked on the Moon recently.

Others marked the sad milestone and then got back to the business of commercial human spaceflight.

Their work is just as significant as Apollo, but much quieter than a Saturn V launch. Their results are popping up in communities across the United States as FAA-licensed spaceports.
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India’s Mars Orbiter Mission Scheduled to Reach Mars Today


We have seen two historic firsts today, September 24:

  • The arrival of India’s first interplanetary space mission at its goal
  • A completely successful first attempt to reach Mars (the Russians and the Americans had to try multiple times; technically, the orbiter part of Europe’s first mission – the Mars Express – has been very successful, but its Beagle 2 lander was lost).
We can do this.  Indian Space Research Organization

“We can do this” – Indian Space Research Organization

Today the Mars Orbiter Mission – MOM, or (Mangalyaan, which reportedly means “Mars vehicle”) – has succeeded on its first attempt at orbital insertion around Mars. Unlike NASA’s MAVEN (an atmospheric research orbiter that successfully entered Martian orbit three days ago), Mangalyaan did have a second chance to do this in another couple of days, if the first attempt didn’t work, but it didn’t need it.
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