Good news! ESA’s (European Space Agency) robotic lander Philae finally received enough solar radiation and now is out of hibernation. On the Rosetta blog, the ESA announced that “The signals were received at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt at 22:28 CEST on 13 June. More than 300 data packets have been analyzed by the teams at the Lander Control Center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).” It is the first contact with the spacecraft since going into hibernation in November.

According to the agency, “Philae ‘spoke’ with its team on the ground for 85 seconds, via Rosetta.”

Philae on Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Rosetta’s robotic lander Philae on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (artist imagination).

Philae is a robotic European Space Agency lander that accompanied the Rosetta spacecraft until it landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, more than ten years after departing Earth.

On 12 November 2014, the probe achieved the first-ever soft landing on a comet nucleus. Its instruments obtained the first images from a comet’s surface. Philae is monitored and operated from DLR’s Lander Control Center in Cologne, Germany.

Several of the instruments on Philae made the first direct analysis of a comet, sending back data that will be analyzed to determine the composition of the surface.

The lander is named after the Philae obelisk, which bears a bilingual inscription and was used along with the Rosetta Stone to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.

As of June 2015, Philae remains shut down and in safe mode due to reduced sunlight and off-nominal spacecraft orientation at its unplanned landing site. The reduced illumination is insufficient to power its systems, rendering it incapable of communicating with Rosetta. Mission controllers hope that additional solar energy falling on the solar panels by August 2015 may be sufficient to reboot the lander.

DLR Philae Project Manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec said that “Philae is doing very well: It has an operating temperature of -35ºC and has 24 Watts available. The lander is ready for operations.”

Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact. There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also celebrated Philae’s awakening on their Facebook page.


M. Özgür Nevres

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