Rosetta probe lands on comet, reports of technical issues

WATCH: A team of scientists have landed a spacecraft on the icy surface of a speeding comet, hurtling through space more than 500 million kilometres from Earth. As Eric Sorensen reports, it will help us understand our origins here on Earth. 

TORONTO – After 10 years and billions of kilometres, the European Space Agency’s Philae lander has made history.

It has become the first spacecraft to ever land on a comet.

Listen as we discuss the significance of Rosetta and Philae’s historic landing
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However, the agency reported that Philae’s anchors — designed to keep it securely fastened to the comet — did not fire. Anchors are required due to the comet’s low gravity.

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There are also concerns that the telemetry link is unstable. This link is responsible for relaying data and images to Earth.

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ESA lost radio link earlier than planned, said Paolo Ferri, head of the Philae mission, but they should know more by Thursday morning.

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Shortly before 1 p.m. EST, photos of the landing were coming through:

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WATCH: ESA confirms probe has landed on comet

“ESA and its Rosetta mission partners achieved something extraordinary today,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

“Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured another place in the history books: not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a probe to a comet’s surface.”

The comet — 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko — is moving 60,000 km/h and is roughly 500,000 million kilometres from Earth.

WATCH: Reaction from ESA scientists and engineers when it is confirmed that Rosetta’s lander, Philae, had successfully landed

“After more than 10 years travelling through space, we’re now making the best ever scientific analysis of one of the oldest remnants of our Solar System,” said Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

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Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera captured this parting shot of the Philae lander after separation. Courtesy ESA

Though the window of landing opened around 3:30 p.m. GMT (10:30 a.m. EST), confirmation of a successful touchdown was expected in a one-hour window centred on 4:02 p.m. GMT, or 11:02 a.m. EST.

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The space agency confirmed touchdown right on time.

Scientists believe that comets are leftover debris from the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. It’s also believed the comets hold some of the essential building blocks of life, primarily water.

The Philae probe will ride with the comet for the next year as it nears the sun.

The comet has playfully been called the “rubber-duck comet” due to its unusual shape.

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko imaged on 20 July 2014 by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow angle camera from a distance of about 5,500 km. Based on the this image, many are calling this the “rubber duck” comet. ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

–with files from The Associated Press

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