Rosetta landed successfully on a comet

The Rosetta probe landed successfully on a comet after a dramatic ten-year voyage. Finnish technology played a key role when the first-ever device manufactured by humans managed to hitch a ride on a comet.

The Rosetta probe of the European Space Agency ESA landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on Wednesday, 12 November. At the time of the landing the comet was 510 million kilometres from Earth, which made the achievement especially challenging. The landing of Rosetta's lander Philae went well, but none of its harpoons nor all of its screws could drill into the surface of the comet.

Rosetta's goal is to collect information on the birth of comets and asteroids and the origins and development of the solar system.

The combined costs of the Rosetta programme are EUR 1.3 billion. In the late 1990s ESA ordered a total of EUR 13 million worth of technology linked with Rosetta from Finnish industry. The main supplier in this was Patria, which manufactured the structure and the power distribution units.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute was behind technologies of many of Rosetta's scientific measuring devices, such as the equipment which measures water content, which was the first to touch the comet's surface. Tekes, the Finnish Meteorological institute, and the Academy of Finland provided about EUR 5 million in funding for the research and development work.

At the moment, Philae is hibernating and waiting for the batteries to charge as the comet gets closer to the sun.

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Kaj Nordgren
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