Listen to Rosetta's Philae Lander Clunk Down on a Comet for the First Time
Trusty (but not particularly graceful) Philae managed to send back a recording of its historic landing on a comet before it went into a prolonged hibernation, and it sounds like a crunchy sort of thud.
The recording was taken by CASSE (Cometary Acoustic Surface Sounding Experiment), a piece of equipment embedded in Philae's three legs. And now, we know what that "crunching" sound is, as German Space Agency (DLR) researcher Klaus Seidensticker stated, "The Philae lander came into contact with a soft layer several centimetres thick. Then, just milliseconds later, the feet encountered a hard, perhaps icy layer."
After the initial landing, the lander "bounced" for approximately two hours before landing in a shadowy area of the comet. As a result of the divergence from the planned landing site, the lander did not get enough sunlight to sustain its battery charge, and shut down operations shortly after its initial 60-hour battery life. Scientists believe that Philae may briefly awaken again when the comet moves closer to the Sun, but as of now Philae's fate remains uncertain.