Philae Update: Comet Lander May Soon Start Science Operations on Comet 67P

Thursday, 18 June 2015 - 1:26PM
ESA
Thursday, 18 June 2015 - 1:26PM
Philae Update: Comet Lander May Soon Start Science Operations on Comet 67P
You may remember the joyous moment when, after a premature shutdown several months ago, the Philae Lander finally called home. Now, the team running the lander, and its orbiting counterpart Rosetta, are frantically trying to get it back on track.

Last we heard, Philae sent information for four minutes on June 14th, but it's signal was weak. It still has more data available to send, but so far, attempts to communicate with it have been met with significant amounts of radio silence, leaving it's mission team a little anxious. The good news is that what little information they have received is all positive; the lander hasn't been overstressed by extreme temperatures, and its systems are all working perfectly. 


And, from a purely scientific standpoint, Philae's crash landing may have been a blessing in disguise - it ended up next to a largely dust free cliff made of pristine ancient pebbles that could contain information from the birth of the solar system, 4.6 billion years ago. This means that there could be a potential treasure trove of information waiting for us researchers soon as next week, when the Philae team hope to have the connection problem repaired. 


On Monday, Paolo Ferri, head of ESA's mission control hypothesized that Rosetta might not be pointing in exactly the right direction, thus causing short, weak contacts from Philae. Now, the team plans to reorient the spacecraft in hopes of better aligning it with the lander, thus fixing the communication problem. This is not an easy fix; at this very moment Comet 67P is approaching the sun, spewing dust and gas into Rosetta's planned flight path, lowering visibility and complicating the journey. Regardless, the team hopes to re-establish a strong line of communication by the end of the week, and finally return to the mission at hand - exploring the geological makeup of the comet.

Perhaps Philae could hold the answer to the uniqueness of our solar system. Or, along with recent efforts, could help us identify extraterrestrial life. Let's hope ESA's plan works soon.
Science
Space
ESA

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