In November 2014, a historic event took place. A space probe sent out a lander module to land on the surface of a comet. Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 Rocket. It reached the comet 67P on 6 August 2014. The spacecraft travelled 6 billion km to reach the comet. Rosetta is the first spacecraft in history to orbit a comet.
What is Rosetta?
Rosetta is a robotic space probe that was built by the European Space Agency. Along with its lander module Philae, Rosetta is performing a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The comet is also known as 67P, for short.
How did the module land on a comet?
On 12 November 2014, the lander module Philae performed the first ever soft-landing on a comet and returned data from the surface. The little lander module detached from its mother ship and travelled for seven hours down to the surface of 67P.
When it landed, it bounced 1km up in the air. Unfortunately, it landed in a high-walled ridge that prevented sunlight reaching its solar panels. The scientist made the most of the situation by collecting as much data from the surface of the comet as possible, before Philae’s batteries died.
This is what we learnt from this historical space adventure:
- Philae found organic, carbon-based life forms on 67P. It has not been made public which molecules have been found, or how complex they are.
- Some scientists believed that all the water on our planet originated from comets. Philae has disproved this theory.