10 years after leaving Earth, the Rosetta space probe is successfully orbiting the Comet 67P and has sent its robotic lander to the surface. The Philae lander, about the size of a washing machine, successfully made the first ever controlled landing on a comet this morning, November 12, 2014. Congratulations to the European Space Agency for a mission well done!
Rosetta is the first space mission to orbit and land on a comet. The comet is relatively small (2 ½ mi in diameter) flying at up to 80,000 mph. The scientists did an amazing job planning the comet orbit and landing as well as a 10 year space flight in great detail. There were many hiccups and crossed fingers along the way, but we're excited that things worked out really well.
Rosetta’s primary mission is to learn more about the origin and evolution of our Solar System by studying the comet’s ice and soil. The comet was created at the same time as the Sun and planets more than 4.6 billion years ago. Comets crashing into earth long ago may be where much of our planet's water came from.
To carry out their research, the Rosetta carries 12 scientific instruments and the Philae lander carries 10. No one knows how long Rosetta and Philae will operate and transmit data – possibly a year – but things will heat up next spring and summer when the comet gets close to the sun. You can go to the European Space Agency to answer many of your questions.
This is a great video showing how we landed on the comet: