Everything is going according to plan. The lander Philae is now flying to the comet, en route for touchdown. Soon we will have images of Rosetta floating in space and Philae on its way to the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Follow the live coverage here.
The Philae spacecraft is now on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, a historic event. However, we are not sure about its state. It may even be upside down after bouncing not once but twice. Telemetry seems to indicate that it has landed three times. Updating live: New pictures released.
Thursday, November 13
9:05AM ET. One of Philae's three legs might not be on the ground. So ESA is waiting to know the lander's exact position and then try to make it jump again to relocate it. Harpooning and drilling would be risky too at this point.
8:27AM ET. New images from the comet. ESA just confirmed that the lander is not parallel to the ground and that is the cause of the instability.
5:49AM ET. First CIVA images confirm Philae is safely on the surface of the comet. That white thing on the foreground is one of the lander's feet.
1:20AM ET. We will have to wait a few more hours to see if the lander is secure enough to start working. The worst case scenario is that the lander could be upside down after the second bounce. The worse than optimal case scenario is that the ice screws are not secured, so they wouldn't be able to use the drill. They need to be secured to the surface for this, says ESA. The other mission objectives could be accomplished in this situation.
1:11AM ET. Apparently, previous telemetry indicates Philae bounced twice and landed three times. From the comments at Unmanned Spaceflight:
Wow, three landings. I'm amazed it made it past the second - after two hours I'd expect the lander could have drifted into any orientation relative to the surface and been damaged on the second landing. But clearly it survived if we have telemetry from ROMAP for the third landing. I don't know if we have confirmation of any telemetry after the third landing, so it's current status is unclear.
Still, I suppose we may get telemetry even if the lander came down upside down. That's got to be a very real possibility now. I wonder how much science could still be done in that scenario.
1:09AM ET. Here's where the comet landed.
1:08AM ET. Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society reports that there's some troubles with the CIVA cameras:
The most-anticipated data was from the CIVA panoramic imager. Although the imaging sequence executed, there was a problem with the data that was returned to Earth; it had black stripes or bars or was just black. It's unclear what went wrong, especially since CIVA worked great during descent. They may ask Philae to re-run the CIVA sequence while the rest of the science sequence is executing (they can apparently do this in parallel) in order to try to get this important image observation acquired and on the ground.
Wednesday, November 12
2:27PM ET. That means that we will have to wait for tomorrow (late night in America) for new telemetry and, hopefully, images. See you in a few hours!
2:20PM ET. The communications link was lost earlier than expected but ESA scientists say they are not worried. Rosetta is now below the horizon and it's now making a maneuver to regain contact. They expect to regain radio link in a few hours. This all seems like magic to me—it's all happening more than 400 million kilometers away from Earth!
2:17PM ET. Bad news. The harpoons didn't fire, so Philae bounced and was floating for a while. Good news. Later, telemetry indicated that Philae landed again.
Above: An image of the landing from Philae, closer to the surface.
2:13PM ET. First image from ROLIS (Rosetta Landing Imaging System): The approach to the touchdown point.
1:36PM ET. ESA has stopped its livestream, but we are keeping an eye on their other media.
1:19PM ET. Here's a clever experiment that Philae and Rosetta will do together to analyze the structure of the comet's nucleus: Phila will send low-frequency radio signals through the nucleus to Rosetta. Depending on how these signals change, scientists will be able to know what's going on in there.
1:13PM ET. During the primary mission, Philae will take a full panorama of the landing site. Part of it will be in 3D. ROLIS (Rosetta Landing Imaging System) will be taking high resolution photos of surface under the lander. The probe will drill nine inches (23 centimeters) into the comet, grabbing material to feed to the on-board laboratory.
1:10PM ET. If everything is alright, the lander's primary mission will last 2.5 days. But if we get lucky and the solar panels don't get blocked by dust, ESA will be able to extend its mission until March 2015. That's the limit. At that time the probe will be too close to the Sun and it will stop operating because of the heat.
1:09PM ET. Telemetry indicates that the comet is on the surface (hang on, buddy!) and images are still being downloaded.
1:04PM ET. ESA is still analyzing data about the harpoons and the small thruster that was going to counteract the recoil. They may have failed.
But during the final health checks of the lander before separation, a problem was detected with the small thruster on top that was designed to counteract the recoil of the harpoons to push the lander down onto the surface. The conditions of landing – including whether or not the thruster performed – along with the exact location of Philae on the comet are being analysed.
12:54PM ET. You think I'm kidding, but it was delicious and now I want another one.
12:35PM ET. I need Matthew McConaughey to save me from the black hole in my belly.
12:31PM ET. This wait is killing me. Literally: I'm so nervous that I'm eating uncontrollably. I just made myself a delicious fried eggs and bacon sandwich. Is there cholesterol in space?
12:04PM ET. Still waiting for images. In the meantime, go watch the amazing short film that ESA produced to highlight the huge step forward that this landing means. Directed by Oscar-winning Tomek Bagiński, it stars Aidan Gillen—Littlefinger of Game of Thrones.
11:42AM ET. ESA says that Philae made a soft landing but they are making sure that the probe is securely attached to the comet. If they think that it's not secure enough, they will fire the harpoons again.
11:40AM ET. Philae will be capturing other data, of course, in its quest to unveil the secrets of the formation of the Solar System, our own planet, and the origin of life itself.
11:33AM ET. We will be seeing multiple images of this. The ROLIS (Rosetta Landing Imaging System) camera will be taking close ups of the landing site. The CIVA (Comet Nucleus Infrared and Analyzer) cameras will be taking panoramas, which will probably be the most spectacular shots.
11:21AM ET. Wow. 25 years since this was designed. It's quite an amazing feat indeed.
11:17AM ET. Remember that, right now, Philae is sending images to ground control.
11:16AM ET. ESA and state officials now congratulating themselves (for good reason.) But I just want pictures!
11:11AM ET. "It's a major milestone for humanity," says ESA in their official statement. It's stunning indeed. 20 European countries plus cooperation from other international partners (USA, Canada, and Australia) have managed to land a machine in a deformed rock automagically, with a communication delay of 30 minutes.
11:09AM ET. IT'S OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED. Philae is talking to mission control.
11:05AM ET. Judging from the stream, it seems we have received confirmation from the landed, but ESA hasn't announced it officially yet.
11:04AM ET. WE HAVE LANDED!
10:32AM ET. We are almost there!! The landing could happen in the next minutes and we'll receive the images sometime in the next hour.
09:52AM ET. Three more pictures of the Philae in its way to the comet from the Rosetta spacecraft.
9:24AM ET. We now have the first image from Philae; it's of Rosetta, which is obscured some by the sun.
08:28AM ET. All the scientific data has arrived in perfect conditions, as expected, and now they are processing it.
08:00AM ET. First scientific data package from Philae is coming. But seems that we'll have to wait 15 minutes more for its disclosure.
07:50AM ET. We'll have the first pictures (NavCam) in one hour more or less.
07:26AM ET. Landing gear has been deployed.
06:06AM ET. Paolo Ferri, head of mission operations, confirms signal from Rossetta and Philae is back again.
04:05AM ET. Confirmed: The lander Philae has separated and it's now flying to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Philae may find data that will help us understand how the Solar System was formed and even the formation of life in our planet.
03:56AM ET. We are now waiting for confirmation of the lander separation from its mothership. We will know if the separation went well in 30 minutes.
03:45AM ET. Live coverage has resumed.
03:36AM ET. Oh wait, I'm so sleepy I forgot there was a delay over the original counter. Separation should be at 4:03ET. Landing at 10:02ET, if all goes as expected. To wake me up I watched this video of a brain surgery, which grossed me out but I found incredibly fascinating—and weirdly satisfying.
03:25AM ET. Almost there. 10 minutes, according to ESA's counter.
02:25AM ET. Mission control has confirmed that all systems are go and they have sent the commands to the lander for separation.
02:13AM ET. ESA has started their retransmission of the event. The lander is operating already, with its first instrument already working—ROMAP. It's already starting to collect data on the comet's magnetic field and plasma environment.
01:25AM ET. Here's an image of what Philae will do if it successfully lands on the comet:
01:10AM ET. How big is this comet? Bigger than New York. Check out these images of the comet compared to a Boeing 747.
00:58AM ET. We are two hours and 36 minutes from separation.
00:37AM ET. It's really amazing that we have reached this point. Remember that Rosetta has been in space for years waiting for this moment. It spent a record 31 months asleep waiting for the moment to arrive. Now, Philae will attempt to land on the comet's surface using two harpoons and three screws to secure itself surface. Here's a video of how this will work:
00:21AM ET. According to mission control, all systems are go for the separation of the lander Philae. The official ESA stream is here.