The Philae lander has separated from the Rosetta spacecraft and is now descending as it prepares to land on a speeding comet.
The European Space Agency tweeted at 9.05am: “SEPARATION CONFIRMED #SEP ESA confirms @Philae2014 Lander has separated from @ESA_Rosetta. Lander now enroute to #CometLanding”.
It said Philae would now have deployed its landing gear, ready to fire its harpoons and dock with the comet at around 5.02pm UK time.
The landmark mission, the first time such a feat has been attempted, is taking place 315 million miles from Earth as the rock hurtles through space at around 30,000mph.
The lander, roughly the size of a dishwasher, will descend at walking pace onto the surface of the rubber-duck shaped comet, analysing dust and gas particles en route.
It is the final act in the 10-year mission designed to analyse the composition and density of a comet in order to better understand the origins of our solar system.
A problem with the lander’s active descent system emerged overnight, said the ESA.
The thruster, meant to counteract any rebound at touchdown, could not be activated, so latching onto the comet will depend completely on a harpoon system… see more