The European Space Agency’s (ESA) comet lander Philae has finally contacted Earth again on Saturday evening after a seven month hibernation. The probe was originally believed to be fast asleep, its whereabouts unknown. Its sent around 300 packages of data to Earth thanks to Rosetta, the mothership orbiting Philae’s comet home.
A Historic Landing
In November 2014, Philae became the spacecraft spacecraft to land on a comet after 10 years of travel. It landed on the comet 67P or Churyumov-Gerasimenko. accomplishing one of its missions. One of Rosetta’s primary mission goals were to “deploy Philae to make first controlled landing on a comet.” At its deployment, the standing hope was that the probe would operate for three months. After only 60 hours of experimenting and sending data to Earth, its solar-powered battery burnt out forcing it to shut down operations. Possibly from a miscalculated landing causing the probe to move to a place blocked off from sunlight.
Philae tweeted: “Hello Earth! Can you hear me?”
Ever since its “hibernation”, the comet has been gravitating toward the sun, allowing Philae to gain energy enough to awaken again and connect with Earth again. This is a relief for ESA because no one was sure the probe would wake up or recover. There was worry that the extremely low temperatures would hurt Philae’s internal circuitry.
ESA’s German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is Philae’s operator. Stephan Ulamec, project manager at German Aerospace Center denotes the comet lander to be “doing well” and “ready for operations.” The fact that Philae’s computer and transmitter responded, able to transmit data, says wonders about its engineering and its strength against very extreme conditions.
Philae Continuing Its Legacy…
Philae ’s second step in its mission — after landing on the comet’s surface — was to situate itself and send data to Earth about the comet’s composition. The probe was designed to analyze the ice and rock composition on the comet’s surface. Scientists await Philae’s next contact and data package. Upcoming data packages may really lend a hand in helping scientists determine exactly where in the galaxy Philae has landed.
To keep in touch, follow Philae on Twitter!