If you're like me, you saw headlines last week about Philae and a comet -- but none of it made any sense. Frankly, I didn't even understand that we'd landed a spacecraft on a comet! That's awesome! So why aren't the news stories awesome? I don't know, but I've just compiled everything you need and want to know into this one place.


Rosetta looks like a metal box with two long arms made of solar panels. Philae was attached to Rosetta and is smaller and about the size of a refrigerator with some solar panels.

Both launched in April of 2004. Last September Rosetta entered the comet's orbit and on Nov. 12 Philae landed on the comet's nucleus. It was a hard landing, bouncing twice. After about 80 percent of the studies were completed, Philae's batteries began to die and contact was eventually lost Nov. 15 (almost 60 hours).

The comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, orbits the sun once every six and a half years. Russians Churyumov and Gerasimenko discovered the comet in 1969. It's about the size of a large volcano on Earth. (See diagram below)