Philae is alive!

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    The comet that landed on the comets? It woke up [FULL ARTICLE]

    BERLIN (AP) — To scientists’ relief and delight, the Philae spacecraft that landed on a comet last fall has woken up and communicated with Earth after seven long months of silence, the European Space Agency announced Sunday.


    Apparently it’s in better health than expected. WISE FWOM YOUR GWAVE, PHILAE! [LINK]

    Scientists had hoped that as the comet neared the Sun, the craft’s solar panels would provide it with enough power to wake, but they also feared that the cold might prevent a reboot. The incoming data show that not only is Philae awake, but also that its prognosis is better than anyone had hoped. “Both temperature- and power-wise we are in a really good state,” says lander manager Stephan Ulamec of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) near Cologne.

    The Rosetta scientists are itching to begin experiments. But first the communication link — which depends on a direct line-of-sight between the lander and the Rosetta mothership currently orbiting the comet — has to improve. So far, the communication bursts have been just a few minutes long, compared with three-hour stints in November, and were often interrupted, suggesting that Philae is not in the orientation that scientists had predicted.

    This is shaping up to be an absolutely awesome year for space science. We get Pluto in a month, we get Ceres, and now we get the “ground truth” from the surface of a comet that already has an orbiter following it. :mrgreen:

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    They’ve been speculating that the reason the communication between lander and orbiter is Philae landed in such a way that its transmitter is pointing the wrong way. In other words, Philae is staring at a corner much like I did as a kid for punishment. I’m hoping they’d get the orbiter to take a close up shot of the lander so they can see how exactly it landed on the comet. Might answer a few questions.

    Also, obligatory xkcd reference:

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    Never mind about my earlier speculation (I said “They’ve been speculating”. I think it was just me.). Philae was incommunicado because it was stuck in a shadow these past few months and therefore had no power to transmit signals or perform its experiments.

    Meanwhile, Scientists plan risky move to get Rosetta spacecraft nearer comet

    Maybe Rosetta will take a picture of Philae so we can see how it is doing. /optimistic.

    Worst case scenario, of course, is it will crash into the comet. That would suck.


    Yeah, I’m a bit baffled by the move-the-orbiter-closer thing. If it is receiving Philae’s signals, leave it be. It’s far too valuable a resource to risk.


    Philae has gone dark again. Probably jealous that New Horizons was about to steal its thunder. [LINK]

    The fridge-sized spacecraft, which landed on Comet 67P in November, last made contact on 9 July. But efforts to contact it again since then have failed, scientists have said.

    The first craft to perform a soft landing on a comet, Philae initially bounced, landing in a position too dark for sunlight to reach its solar panels. It woke up in June as the comet moved closer to the sun. But the latest data suggests something, perhaps gas emission from the comet’s surface, may have moved it again.



    Philae is messing a hell of a show.


    Aaaaaaand Rosetta went into a safe mode during which we easily could have lost it. 😯 [LINK]

    Over the weekend, Rosetta experienced a ‘safe mode’ event 5 km from the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Contact with the spacecraft has since been recovered and the mission teams are working to resume normal operations.

    “We lost contact with the spacecraft on Saturday evening for nearly 24 hours,” says Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager. “Preliminary analysis by our flight dynamics team suggests that the star trackers locked on to a false star – that is, they were confused by comet dust close to the comet, as has been experienced before in the mission.”

    This led to spacecraft pointing errors, which triggered the safe mode. Unfortunately the star trackers then got hung in a particular sub mode requiring specific action from Earth to recover the spacecraft.

    As is normal during an event like this, extra ground tracking station time was requested to provide additional support for recovering the spacecraft. The regularly scheduled Rosetta tracking slot using ESA’s New Norcia deep space station in Australia on Sunday was extended, with time reallocated from Mars Express operations. The blind commanding was done from New Norcia, and later, ESA’s Cebreros deep space station in Spain was also used to support the recovery.

    This would’ve ended Rosetta’s mission ahead of schedule; they’re going to try to put it down on the surface at the end of September when it’s almost out of fuel.


    Rosetta’s days are numbered…and no amount of shouting RENEW! RENEW! will help. [LINK]

    Rosetta is set to complete its mission in a controlled descent to the surface of its comet on 30 September.

    The mission is coming to an end as a result of the spacecraft’s ever-increasing distance from the Sun and Earth. It is heading out towards the orbit of Jupiter, resulting in significantly reduced solar power to operate the craft and its instruments, and a reduction in bandwidth available to downlink scientific data.
    Where will Rosetta be on 30 September?

    Combined with an ageing spacecraft and payload that have endured the harsh environment of space for over 12 years – not least two years close to a dusty comet – this means that Rosetta is reaching the end of its natural life.

    Unlike in 2011, when Rosetta was put into a 31-month hibernation for the most distant part of its journey, this time it is riding alongside the comet. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s maximum distance from the Sun (over 850 million km) is more than Rosetta has ever journeyed before. The result is that there is not enough power at its most distant point to guarantee that Rosetta’s heaters would be able to keep it warm enough to survive.

    Sad. This particular journey was just astounding, and the science returns were worth every penny.


    They’ve found Philae. [LINK]

    Less than a month before the end of the mission, Rosetta’s high-resolution camera has revealed the Philae lander wedged into a dark crack on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

    The images were taken on 2 September by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera as the orbiter came within 2.7 km of the surface and clearly show the main body of the lander, along with two of its three legs.

    The images also provide proof of Philae’s orientation, making it clear why establishing communications was so difficult following its landing on 12 November 2014.

    Philae was last seen when it first touched down at Agilkia, bounced and then flew for another two hours before ending up at a location later named Abydos, on the comet’s smaller lobe.

    After three days, Philae’s primary battery was exhausted and the lander went into hibernation, only to wake up again and communicate briefly with Rosetta in June and July 2015 as the comet came closer to the Sun and more power was available.

    Found, still in one piece. Tough little ship.

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    As you mentioned on FaceBook, that lander – despite it’s awkward and dangerous landing – was able to do its job, albeit in a limited way. Looking at that picture, I can’t help to think that the engineers and designers of Philae need to do a major rethink about how comet landers should be designed. The thing we learned here is that comets are much more porous and full of cracks and caves than we ever thought. Any new lander will have to have some kind of set up to allow the main unit to rotate on the legs or maybe make the legs move or something. Also, the legs need to be more flexible with more joints. A lot more legs, like a spider, too.

    Another thing this mission has shown me is how different and cool the jets of gas look when they escape the comet. I always bought the traditional image of the escaping gases where they slowly diffuse from the comet or puff out in little clouds. Instead they look like rays of light just shooting out of the comets like a rocket exhaust. It’s very awesome and strange. Totally unexpected.

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