Philae Lander First Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

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Space exploration took another large step today when the Rosetta spacecraft’s lander, Philae, successfully landed on comet 67P.

It was a big day for space exploration on Wednesday, which brought the successful landing of the Rosetta craft’s Philae lander on a comet.

This is the first time ever that a human-made spacecraft has landed on the surface of a comet — in this case, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The European craft had been chasing the 4-kilometer-wide comet since 2004, and the landing ended a 6.4-billion-kilometer journey.

The craft, according to the National Post, had to slingshot around the Earth three times and once around Mars before it gained enough speed to chase the comet.

“This is a big step for civilization,” the European Space Agency’s director general, Jean-Jacques Dordain, said.

The comet landing is indeed a big step for civilization, as it will give researchers a never-before-seen opportunity to study the comet and hopefully test the theory that comets brought organic matter and water to Earth billions of years ago. The lander, as the Post states, “will also drill below the surface of the comet to extract a sample that will be analyzed onboard.”

Giant step for mining? 

The landing is not only a giant step in the right direction for space exploration, but also the first piece of interstellar good news to hit the airwaves since Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket exploded in a giant ball of fire above its launch pad 6 seconds after lift off in late October.

On board the rocket was hardware belonging to Planetary Resources, a company that is working out a way to extract resources from asteroids. The company believes asteroids will “play a key role in the development of a space economy and be the main driver in allowing humanity to become a flourishing multi-planetary species.”

While the explosion shook confidence in the the company, if Philae can land on a comet speeding through space, perhaps there is hope for Planetary Resources.

There’s also hope for other entities with an eye on the sky. Russia is plowing ahead with plans to mine on the moon. As Russia Beyond the Headlines reported at the end of October, the country’s team of scientists is already targeting the southern hemisphere of the moon as a perfect location for rare earths exploration. The country intends to get its next lunar exploration project underway as early as 2016.

Clearly, space is the next frontier.


Securities Diclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned. 

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