Rosetta lander Philae heads towards comet surface

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Rosetta lander Philae heads towards comet surface

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There was joy and relief at the European Space Agency command center in Darmstadt in Germany on Wednesday morning as the Philae lander successfully separated from the Rosetta spacecraft.

The lander is now on a solo voyage to try to place the first ever probe on the surface of a comet.

Rosetta reached comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko this August after ten years. It has since been orbiting it trying to find a landing site for Philae.

Flight director Andrea Accomazzo said: “We have been living and flying together for 10 years, now Philae has gone, it’s on its path down to the comet.”

It’s hoped the scientific data it finds will shed light on the origins of our planet and the original materials that went into building the Solar System.

Project scientist Matt Taylor said: “What I am looking forward to with Rosetta with its journey with the comet is to understand how comets work in general. For me that’s the fundamental aim of this mission. By rendezvousing and riding alongside the comet as it goes through Perihelia next year. Close as it approaches the Sun and back out again. We will observe changes in the comet, changes in activity.”

The landing will not be easy and confirmation of its success or failure will come through around 5-6 pm Central European Time on Wednesday evening.

If it manages to attach to the comet, one of the first things Philae will do is send back images of the surface.

Follow our live coverage of #Cometlanding