Rosetta mission scientist Matt Taylor says the science team is jubilant after the Philae lander captured the historic, first close up images of the surface of a comet and began returning data from its science instruments.
Optimistic Europe’s hibernating Philae comet lander can be revived, mission controllers plan to try and contact the spacecraft as soon as January as the search narrows for the probe’s final resting place — a site within arm’s reach of pristine ice and organic matter ripe for analysis if the mission gets a new lease on life.
DARMSTADT, Germany — Comet scientists planned to send up new orders to Europe’s Philae lander Thursday to kick off a second day of research after the probe endured a jumpy touchdown on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Time is of the essence because the oven-sized landing craft is facing a power crunch. The lander bounced across the comet’s tortured landscape before coming to rest near a cliff that blocks sunlight from reaching Philae’s solar panels, meaning the craft’s power generation system may be unable to recharge its batteries. Officials said Thursday the Philae might be on its side, with two of its landing legs contacting the comet’s surface and another off the ground. The first images from Philae’s CIVA camera system — made up of seven micro-cameras in a ring around the lander — appeared to show fragments of rock illuminated by the sun on one side of the probe and the sky on the other side. Philae’s landing legs also appear in the images. “We saw both something that man built — the lander — you see the foot there, and something that nature built 4.6 billion years ago, which is a comet essentially preserved as it was at that time, containing all
Canadian researchers have charted a path that most likely pinpoints the very origins of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet studied intensively by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Western University astronomers believe that 67P is made from primordial material and relatively new to the inner parts of our solar system, having only arrived about 10,000 years ago.