The Landings of Philae and Falcon

Philae image hosted on the ESA website.

This post is about two kinds of spectacular landings:  the planned landing of the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Rosetta Lander, Philae, on a comet millions of miles from Earth; and the “landing” of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage as one of many small steps towards the goal of reusability.

Planning Philae’s Landing

The Rosetta satellite and mission accomplished the goal of intercepting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which this site talked about last week in Intercepting a Comet.  Now the ESA scientists are plotting where to land the Rosetta’s lander, Philae.  They project a landing goal of November 11, 2014.  The lander has all sorts of instruments on it to measure all sorts of comet characteristics and you can go one of ESA’s many informative sites, here, to get an idea of what those instruments are and what they do.

Thumbnail of Philae landing plans. Go to (where the image comes from) to see the big picture.

How will Philae land on the comet?  Well, all of it will likely be remotely controlled, since real-time control of the lander is not really possible.  The spacecraft is millions of miles away meaning communications aren’t an instantaneous back and forth, but instead require many, many minutes just to SEND information to Rosetta and Philae.  The ESA team will probably send out a command series, wait the required time, eventually get a response back from the satellite after 1.5 hours or so (maybe less), double-check that the commands worked, then send out more commands.  While this sort of thing sounds tedious, in reality it isn’t, because while the commands were vetted, and the team’s are very careful, something might occur that shouldn’t have during, or because of, the commanding.  But normally things go just fine.

Hopefully the infographic hosted on’s site will give you a better idea.  Go to to see the infographic and perhaps even read their article.  If you’re really into knowing the activities of Philae, then just go to its Twitter feed, where you’ll get updates.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Video Update

While the Philae’s landing plans are interesting, a video of another landing attempt, this time by SpaceX with its Falcon 9, is always entertaining to watch.  SpaceX released another video last week of the reentry of the Falcon 9 first stage.  The video shows the progress SpaceX seems to be making towards its goal of making its rockets reusable, and therefore less expensive to use.

We’ve seen the video showing the Falcon 9’s legs deploying (You didn’t??? Well here you go), but this footage was captured by a chase plane, so we can see how the rocket comes down in what looks to be a fairly controlled way, then hovers over the water for a few seconds.  Pretty neat and the video of that is below.  The first stage was from the Orbcomm satellite launch on July 14, 2014.



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