After more than a decade of travel, and many tense moments for the scientists, the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission has made history this morning by successfully landing the Philae lander on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It is the first time a man made object has been placed on a comet surface, and now it will begin to transmit data to Earth that could help to understand how comets helped to create our own world.

It was a difficult maneuver, as the Philae cannot really be guided from Earth, and the Rosetta probe that it was launched from is travelling quite quickly around the comet. The mission controllers could only wait for the right moment and then signal the lander to disconnect from its host and drop to the comet's surface. As it landed, one of the thrusters malfunctioned and so the lander didn't secure itself quite as well as had been hoped. Further trouble came as the ice harpoons that were to help secure it didn't fire. And while the lander also had special ice screws as a back up, there was concern that their deployment could tip over Philae and end the mission.

However reports from the lander are that it is settled into a flat region and is stable for now without the added anchors. It seems to be on a slight slope, but it is able to send data back to the ESA team.

And so now the fun begins, as the Philae lander begins an extensive set of experiments designed to give researchers more information on the formation and the properties of such comets. Depending on what the data shows, this could also provide new information on the primordial Earth, which was bombarded by such comets and perhaps even owes its oceans and rivers to water brought by these cosmic ice carriers. (Some astrobiologists even believe that life itself was brought to Earth by comets). 

For now though the scientific community is just celebrating making it to the target. It was an amazing trip over the last decade and a successful landing in spite of the glitches. We can surely expect more great news about Rosetta in the coming months.