European space probe safely anchored on
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[November 13, 2014]
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A European
probe that landed on a comet in a first for space exploration is safely
anchored on the surface despite technical problems, pictures beamed half
a billion kilometers (300 million miles) back to Earth showed on
The lander, named Philae, was launched from its mothership Rosetta
on Wednesday as it orbited comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the
climax of a 10-year-odyssey for the European Space Agency (ESA).
But during Philae's seven-hour descent to the comet, harpoons
designed to anchor it failed to deploy, raising concerns the lander
might drift back into space.
The ESA published an image on Thursday of the 100-kg (220-pound)
lander - virtually weightless in its current environment - on the
comet's bleak, rocky surface.
It said data showed the lander had twice bounced back into space
after touching down on Wednesday, but then come to rest at around
Scientists hope that samples drilled out from the comet by Philae
will unlock details about how the planets – and possibly even life –
evolved, as the rock and ice that make up comets preserve ancient
organic molecules like a time capsule.
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Comets date back to the formation of the solar system some 4.6
billion years ago. Scientists suspect impacting comets delivered
water to early Earth.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Noah Barkin and John
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