After 10 years of anticipation, the ESA's Philae lander has finally detached from the Rosetta satellite and is currently making its descent to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where it will land later today. Watch the events as they unfold live right here.
Above: ESO simulation.
UPDATE 11:29 AM ET: Success! The lander has made touchdown. For ongoing coverage at io9, go here.
Despite a technical glitch overnight, the ESA's Rosetta mission has entered into its elaborate descent phase. Mission controllers have now made radio contact with the probe, and they are already receiving images from it:
Philae was dropped towards the comet by the Rosetta satellite at 09:35 CET. If all goes well, the Philae probe should make its landing around 17:02 CET (11:02 EST / 08:02 PST).
"The lander is on its own now," noted Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager with the European Space Agency, after a long night of activity during which the landing attempt hung on the brink of cancellation.
When the lander touches down, its momentum will drive a set of ice screws into the comet's surface. The probe will then simultaneously fire two harpoons into the comet to firmly anchor itself.
It also carries a thruster that's designed to fire cold gas under pressure to counteract the recoil from the harpoons and keep the probe from ricocheting back into space. Indeed, the gravitational pull exerted by the comet is exceptionally weak.
But it was this cold gas thruster that caused the problems overnight, delaying the final check out of the lander by about an hour. Eventually, the controllers decided to go ahead with the landing without relying on the thruster, since a delay would unlikely improve the situation.
UPDATE 10:49 ET — a shot of the lander making its descent!
Update: 11:00 ET:
We will continue to update this page as events unfold.