First Photos of Philae

After the pseudo-success of Philae, which landed on the comet after a long 10-year journey but also kinda fell down and shut down, the first actual photos of the probe have been published by the European Space Agency.

Philae grabbed the attention of the world as the first probe on a comet and landed on comet 67P a mile back in space. However, the landing wasn’t perfect, and Philae bounced into the air to land a half a mile away from the initial target.

The photos are available on ESA’s Rosetta Blog. They come from Rosetta’s NAVCAM, which was released to the public on Friday. After closer inspection by the ESA’s Flight Dynamics team, they managed to pinpoint the footage that shows the moment of Philae’s final landing after the jump. The photo shows Philae, its shadow and a large dust cloud caused by the landing.

The photos are a bit comical, as all space photos tend to be. A small grainy white blob near a tiny black patch is determined to be Philae and its shadow, concluded experts.

Joking aside, the mission was immensely successful. ESA’s senior scientific advisor Professor Mark McCaughrean declared himself happy with the information scientists have managed to gather from Philae.

These photos, information on dust samples and more were relayed by Philae to earth via the Rosetta satellite. Unfortunately, further data is doubtful due to Philae’s precarious landing position. It’s solar panels get a fraction of the light needed to charge its batteries, and on Saturday Philae officially went into stand-by mode. But before it went into the dark, ESA scientists managed to send a last command to reposition the probe. Philae will raise 4cm and rotate its main housing by 35% to make sure the largest solar panel gets the most light. As comet 67P nears the sun, the hope is that Philae may be able to catch more daylight hours.

The worldwide interest in Philae, which trended on Twitter as #Philae2014, renews hope for future space programs. The interest is in no doubt helped by ESA’s diverse online presence, which included cute animations of Rosetta and Philae and a twitter account for the probe.