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The first successful landing of a space probe onto a comet took place yesterday. CMC physics professor Jimmy Westlake’s column, written the day before Wednesday’s successful landing in the Steamboat Today and reprinted here, gives the back story on this landmark event.

Photo Credit ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0 This mosaic of images reveals the unusual shape and surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander. Philae made the first controlled landing on a comet’s nucleus Wednesday morning.

Photo: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
This mosaic of images reveals the unusual shape and surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter and Philae lander. Philae made the first controlled landing on a comet’s nucleus Wednesday morning.

— If all goes according to plan, a little space probe named Philae will separate from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft late Tuesday and make the first controlled landing on the surface of a comet Wednesday morning.

It took the Rosetta spacecraft 10 years to chase down and reach Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or Comet C-G for short. On Aug. 6, it became the first spacecraft in history to orbit a comet nucleus. ESA scientists hope to double-down on Wednesday and make the history books once again with the first-ever comet landing.

Robotic spacecraft have visited several comets over the past few decades, including Halley’s comet, click for full article