By David A. Andelman
The first-ever landing on a comet in deep-space is about to take place more than 10 million miles from Earth. The European Space Agency craft, known as the Philae lander has separated from the Rosetta orbiter, that has taken the landing craft near the comet. Separation of the Philae lander from the mother ship was confirmed at ESA’s Space Operation Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany at 4:03 am EST, It takes the radio signals from the transmitter on Rosetta 28 minutes and 20 seconds to reach Earth. The first signal from Philae is expected in around two hours, when the lander establishes a communication link with Rosetta. Philae cannot send its data to Earth directly – it must do it via Rosetta.
Once the link has been established, the lander will relay via Rosetta a status report of its health, along with the first scientific data. This will include images taken of the orbiter shortly after separation.
The descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will take around seven hours, during which the lander will take measurements of the environment around the comet. It will also take images of the final moments of descent.
Confirmation of a successful touchdown is expected in a one-hour window centred on 16:02 GMT / 17:02 CET. The first image from the surface is expected some two hours later.
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