ESA Rosetta Mission
In November a spacecraft (Rosetta) launched by the European Space Agency orbited comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Launched in 2004, the craft travelled the solar system gaining speed by gravitational assist around Earth (3 times) and Mars (1 time) and performing other comet observations. After over 10 years in space, Rosetta launched the comet lander Philae. I can't imagine the detailed calculations needed to hitting a comet approximately 4X3X1 km after 10 years of bouncing around the solar system. The below links contain more information on this amazing accomplishment.
Rosetta is a robotic space probe built and launched by the European Space Agency. Along with Philae, its lander module, Rosetta is performing a detailed study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P).
Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket and reached the comet on 6 August 2014, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. (Previous missions had conducted successful flybys of seven other comets.) It is one of ESA's Horizon 2000 cornerstone missions. The spacecraft consists of the Rosetta orbiter, which features 12 instruments, and the Philae lander, with nine additional instruments. The Rosetta mission will orbit 67P for 17 months and is designed to complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. The spacecraft is controlled from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany. The planning for the operation of the scientific payload, together with the data retrieval, calibration, archiving and distribution, is performed from the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), in Villanueva de la Cañada, near Madrid, Spain. It has been estimated that in the decade preceding 2014, some 2,000 people assisted in the mission in some capacity.
The probe is named after the Rosetta Stone, a stele of Egyptian origin featuring a decree in three scripts. The lander is named after the Philae obelisk, which bears a bilingual Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription. A comparison of its hieroglyphs with those on the Rosetta Stone catalysed the deciphering of the Egyptian writing system. Similarly, it is hoped that these spacecraft will result in better understanding of comets and the early Solar System. In a more direct analogy to its namesake, the Rosetta spacecraft also carries a micro-etched nickel alloy Rosetta disc donated by the Long Now Foundation inscribed with 13,000 pages of text in 1200 languages.
The spacecraft has already performed two asteroid flyby missions on its way to the comet. In 2007, Rosetta also performed a Mars swing-by (flyby). The craft completed its fly-by of asteroid 2867 Šteins in September 2008 and of 21 Lutetia in July 2010. On 20 January 2014, Rosetta was taken out of a 31-month hibernation mode and continued towards the comet.
Rosetta 's Philae lander successfully made the first controlled touchdown on a comet nucleus when it landed on 67P on 12 November 2014. Astrophysicist Elizabeth Pearson says although the future of the lander Philae is uncertain, Rosetta is the workhorse of the mission and its work will carry on.
Update 2015-06: Philae is alive!
In 2014 we posted information on the ESA (European Space Agency) Rosetta space probe and the Philae lander it launched to land on a comet. (see the main page title "ESA Rosetta Mission). This is a follow up to that article. The Philae solar batteries went dead, as expected. The theory was that the batteries would recharge when the comets orbit put it back in sunlight. After 7 months that's what happened and Philae is transmitting again. This entire project is one amazing feat after another. What next?
The following article explains the reawakening.
You can even follow Philae on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Philae2014