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Pic of week: To boldly go where no probe's gone before

This remarkable photograph, provided by the European Space Agency, shows the surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet as seen from the Philae lander, which touched down on the comet's surface this week.

The Rosetta spacecraft finally arrived at its destination on Wednesday in its historic bid to reach the icy comet more than 300 million miles from Earth.

The European Space Agency tweeted: "History is made RT Philae2014: Touchdown! My new address: 67P! CometLanding."

The agency said it had received a signal from the 220lb craft after it touched down on the icy surface of the comet.

Flight director Andrea Accomazzo said from the DLR German Aerospace Centre in Darmstadt, Germany: "We definitely confirm that the lander is on the surface."

Scientists, including those from Queen's University in Belfast, who have spent years preparing for the arrival of the craft at the comet, are hoping it will eventually provide answers to some of the biggest questions about the origin of the universe.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, from the astrophysics research centre at QUB, was among the scientists who have been studying the comet from afar for over 10 years. He said: "I'm excited and anxious for all the hundreds of scientists, technicians and engineers that have been working on this mission for over a decade.

"The Rosetta mission realises the ambition of mankind to explore our origins, and discover what is out there.

"It demonstrates that the European Space Agency plays a major role in the scientific exploration of our Solar System, and Queen's is part of that effort."

Since its bumpy touchdown, the Philae lander has been resting on its side, lodged in the shadows of a cliff or large boulder. The primary mission objective of analysing the composition of the comet has been made difficult due to the lander's position on its side.

On Thursday, the lander sent back historic first images taken from the comet's crumbling, fractured terrain.

Belfast Telegraph


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