European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved.

After a suspense-packed, seven-hour descent, the European Space Agency’s Philae lander made an unprecedented touchdown on the surface of a comet Wednesday — marking the high point of a $1.3 billion, 10-year mission.

“Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured a 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 lander to a comet’s surface,” noted Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

“With Rosetta we are opening a door to the origin of planet Earth and fostering a better understanding of our future. ESA and its Rosetta mission partners have achieved something extraordinary today.”

“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.

“Decades of preparation have paved the way for today’s success, ensuring that Rosetta continues to be a game-changer in cometary science and space exploration.”

“We are extremely relieved to be safely on the surface of the comet, especially given the extra challenges that we faced with the health of the lander,” said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center.

“In the next hours we’ll learn exactly where and how we’ve landed, and we’ll start getting as much science as we can from the surface of this fascinating world.”

After the landing, the team said telemetry data from Philae indicated that the harpoons did not engage. “Some of these data indicated that the lander may have lifted off again,” Ulamec said. Although not conclusive, the readings suggested that the lander may have bounced a bit, turned slightly and settled back down in a different position.

‘”So maybe today we didn’t just land once, we landed twice,” Ulamec said. Further data would confirm the sequence of events and help mission managers figure out what to do next, he said.

The landing served as the climax of a mission that was launched more than 10 years ago and involved a 4-billion-mile (6-billion-kilometer) journey to the comet.

Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 and travelled 6.4 billion kilometres through the Solar System before arriving at the comet on 6 August 2014.

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