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Local scientist thrilled comet landing successful

European scientists made history Tuesday morning by landing a spacecraft on a moving comet, scientists in Milwaukee are cheering them on.

The spaceship \"Rosetta\" released a 220-pound lander that dropped for seven hours before attaching to a comet, which was the final stretch of a 4-billion mile journey. The European Space Agency had been chasing the comet since the launch of Rosetta in 2004. Scientists managed to catch up traveling at up to nearly 84,000 miles an hour, which meant using the gravity of the Earth and Mars as a slingshot, then building up speed by swinging around both planets before slinging off toward its target. 

Lindsay McHenry, Associate Professor for UW-Milwaukee's Department of Geosciences echoes the rest of the world in noting \"It's a huge engineering feat.\"

Scientists hope to take samples from the surface and possibly shed some light on how the solar system began, or how life began on Earth. \"You have an organic material on comets... which could have been the building blocks of life,\" McHenry said.

McHenry is associate director for UW-Milwaukee in the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, which partners with NASA on scholarships and projects that try to steer the best and brightest minds toward aerospace engineering. While the potential for scientific discovery from the Rosetta mission is great, McHenry is also excited that it could inspire children, like previous space missions inspired her. \"When i was growing up as a kid, astronomy and the planets were so exciting to me, and one of the things that made me pursue a career in science,\" McHenry said. 
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