General
13 Nov 2014

Rosetta mission – OU space scientists contribute to historic comet landing

First picture from Philae lander (ESA)

First picture from Philae lander (ESA)

Scientists, staff and students at The Open University (OU) were celebrating yesterday (Wednesday 12 November) after the announcement that the Rosetta space mission had succeeded in its attempt to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko following an epic 6.4 billion kilometre journey through the solar system lasting ten years.

OU scientists involved in the mission joined others from across Europe at the Rosetta control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, to await the nail-biting news. Back in the UK, hundreds of OU staff, students and alumni assembled at a special event in Milton Keynes to watch the landing as it unfolded. Others across the UK watched an OU live webcast of the event.

Confirmation of touchdown came in via ESA around 4pm (GMT). A number of instruments on the lander, including the OU designed Ptolemy, which will analyse samples of the comet to find out what it’s made of, began working within minutes of the touchdown.

Thousands of people across the world took to social media to congratulate the teams involved in what has been described as the greatest space mission of our lifetime.

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said: “I am incredibly proud our scientists at The Open University. For many of them the Rosetta mission has been a life’s work, and this achievement is testament to their incredible determination, skill and expertise.

“I can vividly recall watching the moon landing as a child and the tremendous impression it made on me. I hope that young people watching the landing yesterday were as thrilled and inspired as I was, and that the landing will breed a new generation of space scientists, exploring the very origins of the universe that the lander will help to reveal.”

This mission marks a significant breakthrough in the scientific community’s knowledge of comets, potentially providing researchers with unprecedented information about the comet's structure and composition. Such information may give invaluable insight into the role comets may have played in the formation in our Earth. Instruments such as Ptolemy will be vital to discovering such things as whether water on the comet bears any chemical resemblance to that found on Earth.

ENDS

Notes to editor
To find out more about the Rosetta mission in the UK visit: www.rosetta.ac.uk

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