European probe finally finds it mark after 10 years

LUISA COOLS

The moment the Philae probe touched down on a comet. Photo: European Space Agency

A 10-year-odyssey reached its climax on Wednesday as the European Space Agency’s Philae probe finally landed on the comet it had been tracking for a decade.

It is the first time in history a probe has successfully landed on a comet, and will allow a scientific analysis of the comet which was described by the European Space Agency as ‘one of the oldest remnants of our Solar System’.

Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration said decades of preparation had paved the way for the probe landing success, ‘ensuring that Rosetta continues to be a game-changer in cometary science and space exploration’.

It’s just one of many triumphs in the skies that has taken place around the world over the past few months.

In September, India was the first nation to successfully launch a satellite into Mars’ orbit on their first attempt.

The world media has been focusing on these successes and with the recent sighting of a Blood Moon in October, Australians are becoming increasingly fascinated with space and astronomy.

Astronomical Society of Australia President Professor Andrew Hopkins said there was an unprecedented interest from the public in astronomy and a thirst for knowledge.

“Astronomy is sometimes referred to as the gateway drug for science, it’s one of those things where there’s a lot of interest in the community,” Professor Hopkins said.

“We are quite lucky in the research community as this is something that we get to take advantage of if you like, we get to have the opportunity to talk to people about what we do, in a way that a lot of other research areas don’t,” he said.

The Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) has about 700 members, which is a substantial proportion of Australia’s 1000-strong professional astronomical community.

“Astronomy is the thing that is often used as a way of inspiring and enticing young people to get involved and interested in science,” Professor Hopkins said.

With the successes of many other space programs and continuing astronomical events that take place, the ASA expects that public interest in this area will continue to grow.

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