National pride: The Philae has landed

“The Philae has landed”. Not since the first moon landing of 1969 have words like this described a defining moment in human achievement. 

After being launched nearly 10 years ago, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission finally reached a milestone at 4.02pm Irish time yesterday, placing its Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

It is a source of national pride that two Irish firms have played a central role in a project designed to help determine the origin of the solar system. Space Technology Ireland, led by Prof Susan McKenna Lawlor, designed the Electrical Support System processor unit which communicates between the Rosetta spacecraft and its Philae lander.

CAPTEC, based in Malahide, developed the software for the lander. That is not the only Irish involvement. Laurence O’Rourke from Co Westmeath, a UCC graduate, is an ESA lander system engineer and one of two science operations co-ordinators for the project.

This marks the first landing of a craft on a comet. An outstanding achievement that all Europeans can celebrate.

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