Cheers, clapping and hugs broke out in the control room at 4:03 pm GMT as the European Space Agency confirmed that the Philae Lander had touched down on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
Philae started sending messages back to earth right away — that harpoons were fired and ice screws in. The historic moment brought smiles to the operations team after hours of waiting. "We are on the comet!" announced Stephan Ulamec, the Philae Lander Manager.
Touchdown! My new address: 67P! #CometLanding— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 12, 2014
The landing is just the beginning. For The Guardian’s liveblog of the event, Stuart Clark writes:
[There] is a huge amount of science to come from the Rosetta mission. The main orbiter could stay with the comet until the end of 2016, according to Fred Jansen, Rosetta mission manager. This is when the spacecraft would be too far away from the sun to generate enough power to keep going. Jansen says that Esa is thinking about “parking” Rosetta on the comet at the end of the mission, perhaps reuniting it with Philae.
Already researchers have learned unexpected things about this comet. For one, the comet is "singing," reports James Vincent for The Independent. The sound is too low for human ears to hear, but the European Space Agency increased the pitch 1,000 times to make the song hearable. Listen:
The strange burbling is was picked up by instruments on the Rosetta probe. Oscillations in the magnetic field surrounding the comet may be vibrating charged particles streaming off 67P/C-G. "This is exciting because it is completely new to us," says Karl Heinz in a statement. "We did not expect this and we are still working to understand the physics of what is happening.” It certainly won’t be the last intriguing finding from the mission.