Heroes

They Sent A Camera Millions Of Miles Into Space. It Just Took These 7 Photos.

See mankind's first images from the surface of a comet.

They Sent A Camera Millions Of Miles Into Space. It Just Took These 7 Photos.

On November 12, 2014, for the first time in history, we landed on a comet. It took a long time – about 10 years – to get there.

The Approach

Just a few days before the landing, we got our first up-close glimpses of the alien rock, called 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, from the European Space Agency's probe, Rosetta. Here's what it looks like from about six miles away:


Look how jagged the cliff is compared to the smooth, dusty surface below. It almost looks like a set from Star Trek in this photo:

Except that it's just a tiny big bigger than any set we've ever built. It's hard to get a sense of how big everything in these pictures is because, well, the comet is floating in empty space and there's nothing to compare it to. It turns out 67P isn't just any comet. It's a massive (and, oddly, duck-shaped) comet. How massive? Here's what it would look like over London:

Yikes! Let's just say it's a good thing it's floating over 300 million miles away.

But a part of us isn't just floating around the comet — it's on it. How'd that happen?

Off We Go

Philae, the lander attached to Rosetta, said goodbye and set off toward the comet to attempt something that had never been done before: land on it. We had no idea whether it would work.

That's Philae leaving Rosetta. The three legs sticking out of it are its landing gear.

Here's a shot from Philae, just under two miles from the surface:

Here's what it looked like just 100 feet from touching down. That boulder in the top-right looks small, but it's actually about 16 feet across, roughly the size of two pickup trucks.

Meanwhile, Back At Home...

Philae drifted closer to the comet, and then ... well, it's funny. I'm telling this story in real-time. But because the comet is 300 million miles away, it actually takes about 30 minutes for signals from it to travel through space and back to Earth. So while this is going on out beyond Mars, the folks back on Earth were just waiting — and rather nervously, judging by this photo from the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany:

Translation: "Live from the control room: They're also riveted to their screens, waiting for news."

Out in space, Philae moved out of sight of Rosetta as it neared the end of the pair's 10-year odyssey.

Touchdown!

Minutes passed. Finally, the signal arrived! Confirmed: Philae had landed on the comet. The celebrations poured in from across this planet, and raucous applause filled ESOC.

The landing wasn't seamless. One of Philae's thrusters failed, which caused it to bounce when it hit the comet. And the harpoons that were supposed to keep it latched tightly to 67P failed to deploy, causing it to shift slightly.

But it did land, and in one piece. Data started to drift in, and then, after a few hours, this arrived: the first postcard from a comet, sent by Philae's CIVA camera back to all of its fans here on Earth.

Later, we got an entire panorama. People of Earth, welcome to 67P, your first comet:

Unfortunately, we may have to wait a while for more photos. It looks like Philae's final resting place is probably on its side, near a crater, where it receives only 1.5 hours of sunlight per day to charge its batteries. That means the ESA will have to prioritize the sensors that the lander uses, including cameras, to make sure we get as much science out of the project as possible.

A Moment To Remember

As you savor these images, it's worth noting that this is not the beginning or the end. This was a mission a decade in the making. And whether or not Philae stays alive and runs experiments for the next few years, as planned, we've already learned an incredible amount about our solar system that will have an immeasurable impact on our future.

The cheers may have started when Philae made its relatively safe landing, but they should continue for years to come.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


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Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

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Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

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L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

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Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

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All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.