When the Europe Space Agency saw the comet in detail a few weeks ago, it was a little upsetting. Rather than the usual ’roundish’ shape, this comet was very clearly shaped like a rubber duck. This was going to make the landing difficult. But today they soft-landed their Philae probe onto the comet. Undoubtedly this image will be one of the most memorable of this campaign as the washing-machine sized probe started it journey onto the surface, capping a ten-year, four-billion-mile journey.
However there was one glitch. As comets are not really ‘solid’ they have a unusual and somewhat unpredictable gravity. The plan was to fire grappling hooks and grab onto the comet upon landing. However, the harpoons failed to fire and so the probe bounced. At least once. Maybe more. It did send a signal so it looks alive. And it has missed the boulders, cliffs and gas-venting cracks in the vicinity. We’ll know more over the next few days as we communicate with the Rosetta mothership, still in orbit around the comet.
Then, onto drilling and the search for water.