LiveAs it happened: Rosetta comet landing


  1. Confirmation received of the first ever comet landing
  2. Successful touchdown of the landing robot Philae marks climax of 10 year, 6.4 billion km journey
  3. Esa confirms the harpoons designed to attach Philae to the comet did not fire, but its smaller screws appear to have dug into the surface
  4. Philae was released at 08:35 GMT and took seven hours to reach comet 67P
  5. Pictures have been received of the descent in progress - more are now eagerly awaited from the comet surface
  6. Live video from the European Space Agency's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany

Live Reporting

By Jonathan Webb, Melissa Hogenboom and Victoria Park

Goodbye, for now...

Thanks all for tuning in, for what has been an extraordinary day for space and science history. We've enjoyed all your comments but for now that's it from Jonathan Webb and Melissa Hogenboom on the BBC Science team. Thanks also to our social media colleagues.

There will be a full media briefing at 13:00 GMT on Thursday and there will be more comment, analysis and updates on the BBC News science pages.

We leave you with the remarkable "farewell" image of Philae as it dropped away from the orbiting Rosetta craft, towards an uncertain but exciting future.


The lengthy list of credits indicates just how many people's hard work went into the history-making voyage that culminated in today's events.

Congratulations to them all.

Sarcastic Philae - spoof account of the landing robot


tweets: That's right.... I have a bounce in my step. #YouWouldToo #HarpoonGate

Stephan Ulamec went on to explain that the early data suggests Philae may have lifted and turned slightly after touching down for the first time.

There was a signal suggestive of turning - which stopped after two hours.

"Maybe today, we didn't even just land once - maybe we landed twice," he told the room, to laughter and applause.

"We will know a lot more tomorrow."


'It's complicated'

Philae lander manager, Stephan Ulamec, says: "It's complicated to land on a comet it's also complicated to understand what has happened during this landing.

"What we know is we touched down, we landed at the comet at the time when you all saw us cheering and when it was announced. We had a very clear signal there, we received data from the landing - housekeeping and science data - that's the good news."

Then he told us the bad news. The anchoring harpoons did not fire, and so they are not anchoring the lander to the surface.

"We still do not fully understand what has happened."

Time to get collecting

Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director-General of Esa, said that Philae's radio link and power are functioning.

"When you have radio and power, you collect data."

The live stream has begun for the final press briefing - watch using the "live coverage" tab above.

And here's an update from the Open University's Prof Monica Grady, speaking moments ago on BBC News:

"There is data in the can, we have to wait for it to be transmitted. We will know by midday tomorrow how much data we've got."

Any minute now... The final briefing of a day when history was made.

Prof Chris Lintott, astronomer, University of Oxford


tweets: Ptolemy on board @Philae2014 has data from a mass spectrometer safely down on the ground; exciting to have chemistry from a comet! #cometlanding

A mass spectrometer is a device which uses the mass of atoms to understand their chemical composition.

Sit tight - just like Philae

The briefing has now been postponed until 19:00 GMT - Esa suggests you fetch a glass of wine before settling down to see the latest data from comet 67P, 300 million miles away.

'Waited years'

Watch a moment of pure joy in our "key video" tab above: excitement and tears from the Open University's Prof Monica Grady.

"It's landed - I've waited years for this", she says, as she hugs our very own science editor David Shukman.

The lander's toolkit

This illustration shows the many instruments on Philae - including Rolis (centre right) which has already sent us an postcard of the looming comet surface.

ESA/ATG medialab

BBC's The Sky at Night


The Sky at Night team tweets that they are hoping to see surface images at the imminent briefing.

They are not alone!

More news on its way

Esa TV will run a live briefing in five minutes' time (18:30 GMT).

Watch using the "live coverage" tab above.

Nasa congratulates Esa

John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for Nasa's Science Mission Directorate says:

"This achievement represents a breakthrough moment in the exploration of our solar system and a milestone for international cooperation. We are proud to be a part of this historic day and look forward to receiving valuable data from the three Nasa instruments on board Rosetta that will map the comet's nucleus and examine it for signs of water.

"Small bodies in our solar system like comets and asteroids help us understand how the solar system formed, and provide opportunities to advance exploration.

"It's a great day for space exploration."

A new video is now up on our key videos tab above, with Esa project scientist Dr Matt Taylor. You may remember him from his tattoos, or have seen his name trending on Twitter earlier today...

He says people have invested their entire lives on the mission.

"I can't put words to it - it was beautiful".

Rebecca Morelle

Science Correspondent, BBC News

Rebecca tweets: Team investigating what no harpoons and unexpected telemetry means - awaiting surface picture to see what's happened #CometLanding #Rosetta

To clarify, that is the first image taken by Philae's camera ROLIS as it dropped towards its target landing site on the comet.

Emily is among many planetary scientists who are extremely excited to see it.

ROLIS is positioned on Philae's "balcony" pointed downward. It should now be about 31cm from the comet's surface.

Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society


tweets: This is a ROLIS image of the comet!!! Right on target!!!!!


'Genuine triumph'

David Shukman

Science editor, BBC News

Landing on the small, strange world of a comet ranks as one of the greatest achievements in space exploration. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would obviously take pride of place.

People might debate the relative prowess of robotic rovers driving on Mars or the Voyager spacecraft edging out of the solar system. But touching down on a primordial lump of rock and ice that dates from the earliest days of the Solar System - and which is hurtling through space at 34,000 mph - is a genuine triumph by any standards.

Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, back on Earth after living aboard ISS


tweets: Last night I held in my hands original works of Galileo & Newton. Today we landed on a comet beyond Mars. Incredible.

Chris Hadfield

Dropped calls

Scientists at mission control are now processing the first images from the surface of the comet.

But they are also getting intermittent drop-out in the communication between the lander Philae and the "mothership" Rosetta, still in orbit.

Paolo Ferri, head of operations at Esa, told BBC News: "We need to stabilise this situation over the next three hours."

'Frozen soup'

We've heard a lot of comments describing what we might learn from the comet, but this is the first time we've heard it described as soup. (Note - we do not expect it to be edible.)

The Ptolemy instrument's lead investigator, Prof Ian Wright from Open University, says:

"The comet is very, very old. Analysing the material in a comet is like looking back in history; it's like a time capsule.

"I like to think of it as frozen primordial soup, and this is the stuff that rained down on the early Earth. The idea that comets may have brought the building blocks of life to Earth is one of the reasons why we want to study them."

Emily also reports that Mark McCaughrean, Esa's senior science adviser, has confirmed the lander's screws - if not its harpoons - have dug into the comet's surface.

Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society

Emily tweets from Darmstadt:

"Not knowing about the stability is clearly worrisome, but by any reasonable measure Philae is successful, and we can expect good data.

"It's going to take Philae mission controllers some time to understand how stable they are, but in the meantime everything is working great. Yay!"

Get involved


Arturo Opaso: "Wow, very impressive and exciting! We are all proud, these are the events that make us feel as one. Awaiting for images here in Chile."

We're all waiting, Arturo! Impatience born of enthusiasm...

'Nearly cancelled'

Rebecca Morelle

Science Correspondent, BBC News

Rebecca tweets from Darmstadt:

"Have been hearing how close the #CometLanding was to being pulled last night - they've only told us now it landed! #Rosetta"

Get involved


Gloria Jefferson: So very well done to all involved at the European Space Agency. Proud to be a member of humanity on such a day.

UK Space Agency


tweets: "Hollywood is good, but Rosetta is better" - great quote from our CEO Dr David Parker #CometLanding

Comet noise goes viral

Our colleagues at #BBCtrending write:

The sound coming from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has caught the imagination of hundreds of thousands on social media.

The scientists are just as surprised as social media users.

"This is exciting because it is completely new to us. We did not expect this and we are still working to understand the physics of what is happening," Karl-Heinz Glaßmeier, head of Space Physics and Space Sensorics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany, explained on the ESA Rosetta blog.

Mark Bentley, planetary scientist involved in the mission


tweets: Deciding whether to re-fire the harpoons is tricky - without the hold-down thruster, presumably @Philae2014 could recoil? #CometLanding

Decisions to be made

The Esa Operations team confirms that the harpoons designed to attach Philae to the comet did not fire.

But they say the lander is in great shape, and the team is "looking at refire options".

Joel Parker, astronomer and Nasa scientist


tweets: Philae sank about 4cm... but the harpoons didn't fire and the thruster problem was real and so it also didn't fire? Yow, the drama continues! #CometLanding

Esa Operations


tweets: It looks like @Philae2014 made a fairly gentle touch down on #67P based on amount of landing gear damping #CometLanding

'Down on the surface': The moment Philae comet landing confirmed

Watch the celebrations in a to the "key video" tab above.

"We're down on the surface", said Esa's Prof Mark McCaughrean.

The team from BBC's The Sky at Night


tweets: "No rest for the wicked..."


They appear to be referring to presenter and University of Oxford astronomer Prof Chris Lintott.

David Shukman

Science editor, BBC News

tweets: I've never seen a leading planetary scientist leap for joy before - Prof Monica Grady at #CometLanding - coming up on News at Six

Next steps

Further checks are now needed to ascertain the state of the lander, but the fact that it is resting on the surface of the speeding comet is already a huge success.

It marks the highlight of the decade-long Rosetta mission to study comets and learn more about the origins of these celestial bodies.

The head of the European Space Agency underlined Europe's pride:

"We are the first to have done that, and that will stay forever,'' said Esa director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain.


Get involved


Dan Jakubowski: This is mankind's greatest feat in Space Exploration since landing on the Moon in 1969. Congratulations to all from Cleveland, Ohio USA.

#CometLanding trending worldwide on Twitter

@NancySteinman tweets: Federation of planets, here we come. Congrats to @Philae2014 and its team. #CometLanding. @That_MarcC tweets: My 95-year-old mother-in-law watched the #CometLanding on a laptop. @Philae2014 @ESA_Rosetta

Congratulations flood in

"Today's successful landing by Rosetta's Philae lander, a major contribution to this mission by the German Space Agency (DLR), at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a tremendous accomplishment," says Space Foundation's Elliot Pulham.

"We congratulate our partners at DLR and ESA for achieving yet another milestone during this ambitious mission."

Tweets from our correspondents in Darmstadt

Disbelief and triumph

David Shukman, BBC Science Editor:

"Wow, they did it - @Philae2014 is now sitting on a comet. Harpoons fired. Incredible atmosphere. People quite can't believe it - nor can I."

Rebecca Morelle, BBC Global Science Correspondent:

"Can't believe they've done it - @esa's Mark McCaughrean very emotional at success - a huge moment #CometLanding #Rosetta"

Monica Grady, space scientist at Open University


Monica says the landing happened "bang on time".

She tweets: "Break out the, got to wait to hear from @Philae_Ptolemy #CometLanding"

Ptolemy is an instrument that will do chemical analysis, "sniffing" the surface of the comet.

Close call

The mission was almost postponed in the early hours of the morning, says Esa's very happy Prof Mark McCaughrean, live on BBC News as he heard the news.

Emma Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society


tweets: Stephan Ulamec: It has done its job, we are on the comet. *mic drop* #CometLanding


"Philae is talking to us," Stephan Ulamec has told the cameras.


It may not have been as graceful as this illustration, but the message has reached Earth - and spread around the world on Twitter:

Philae just landed on a comet!


There seems to be some movement in the control room... And cheers. Many cheers!!

More tense moments...

Rebecca Morelle

Science Correspondent, BBC News

tweets: Argh!!! This wait is horrible #CometLanding - watching mission control and waiting for #rosetta

"The wait is nearly over," she tells us from Darmstadt.


Phil Plait


tweets: It's weird to think Philae is down, and the signal from it is just now passing by Mars on its way to Earth.

Moments to treasure

This already seems like an old triumph - but here is Holger Sierks, the chief investigator on the OSIRIS part of the project, sharing a moment with BBC Sky at Night's Prof Chris Lintott.

They had just sighted the first image of Philae's descent.


Sam Cristoforetti, soon flying to the International Space Station


tweets: This gives me the shivers. 500 million km from Earth, a human-made robot is attempting a #cometlanding. Right now.

What is going on up there?

Jonathan Amos

Science correspondent, BBC News

What's happening now on Philae as it approaches the surface?

Well, its onboard commands have told it that the landing is imminent. For 40 minutes prior to the expected touchdown, all data and images that it is collecting are being stored onboard, hopefully for retrieval later.

Much like a voice-data recorder on an aeroplane, this storage system works on a loop. If the preparation periods lasts longer than 40 minutes, any data recorded at the beginning of the landing window will be over-written.

This ensures that the very latest data, acquired just as Philae touches down, is the information that gets preserved.

Alexander Gerst, Esa astronaut, living and working on the International Space Station


tweets: GO @Philae2014 good luck for touchdown! @ESA_Rosetta, myself and the world are with you! #CometLanding

Lucianne Walkowicz, astrophysicist


tweets: Breathlessly waiting to hear back from @Philae2014! Curse you, 28 min light travel time! #CometLanding