Philae Lander Wakes Up, Sends Back Greetings from a Comet

Monday, 15 June 2015 - 9:50AM
ESA
Philae/Rosetta
Monday, 15 June 2015 - 9:50AM
Philae Lander Wakes Up, Sends Back Greetings from a Comet
In November 2014, Philae became the first manmade spacecraft to land on a comet, but sadly shut down prematurely after a few mishaps. After months of radio silence, Earth has finally heard from the intrepid lander, as ESA received signals from Philae at 10:28 pm on June 13.



Late last year, Philae attempted to make a historic landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It managed to land on the comet, but its harpoons didn't deploy correctly, causing it to "bounce" for two hours until it ultimately settled in an unknown location far away from its planned landing site. ESA raced to find the lander before it ran out of power, as it landed in a shady area and couldn't use solar power to recharge its battery, but the lander shut down before they could find it. Philae has been missing ever since; last week, ESA believed that they had successfully narrowed down Philae's location, but they couldn't be absolutely sure.

Then, on Saturday, the lander finally "spoke" to Earth once again sending back more than 300 packets of data that have been analyzed by the ESA team. Although Philae only had the chance to do 60 hours of work before shutting down, there's still plenty of scientific data that could be sent back to Earth. It completed its primary science mission, which means there are 8,000 data packets in Philae's memory. 

"Philae is doing very well: It has an operating temperature of -35ºC and has 24 Watts available," Philae Project Manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec said in an ESA statement. "The lander is ready for operations."


ESA then received another contact on Sunday night, but the greetings have been extremely brief so far. Saturday's contact lasted for 85 seconds, while Sunday's only lasted for ten seconds. Scientists are working to determine why these contacts are so short, and what can be done to communicate with Philae for a prolonged period of time.

"It could have something to do with the orientation of Rosetta; it may not be pointing in exactly the right direction," Paolo Ferri, head of ESA's mission control, said to BBC. "But Rosetta is also 200km from the comet, and although the link should be sufficient it is not super-strong, and if you don't have the correct alignment, you could lose the connection."
Science
Space
ESA
Philae/Rosetta

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