ROSETTA: Six and a half hours to separation

The first mission ever to rendezvous with a comet is well on its way to its second great “first” — the first soft-landing on a comet.  (Deep Impact’s violent arrival at Tempel 1 hardly counts for that.)  The Philae lander has already been powered up and is going through the pre-launch sequence.  There’s one more go/no go decision coming up (the Rosetta team has already passed two), and then when Rosetta does release Philae, it becomes irreversible — Philae will make an approximately seven hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko, to a landing site that has been named Agilkia, after an island in the River Nile where the Philae temple complex ruins are found.  (Philae was where the Rosetta stone was found, hence the name of the mothership.)

Actual landing time looks like it will be around 15:30 UTC, or 9:30 Central Standard Time.  Keep your fingers crossed!

And just for fun, here are the adorable animations by designdata.de:

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