Philae Phones Home

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko /  Image credit ESA

The weekend brought great news for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta/Philae mission.

From ESA’s Rosetta blog:

“Rosetta’s lander Philae is out of hibernation!

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 analysed by the teams at the Lander Control Center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

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

For 85 seconds Philae “spoke” with its team on ground, via Rosetta, in the first contact since going into hibernation in November.

When analysing the status data it became clear that Philae also must have been awake earlier: “We have also received historical data – so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier.”

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.

Philae shut down on 15 November 2014 at 1:15 CET after being in operation on the comet for about 60 hours. Since 12 March 2015 the communication unit on orbiter Rosetta was turned on to listen out for the lander.”

Note: The Philae saga is another example of the sometimes slow motion pacing of deep space exploration, and the importance of patience as one of the main requirements of any mission. There is also something a bit poetic in the notion of a spacecraft lost in deep shadows being awakened not by brilliant technical workarounds from ground control, but rather by the change in light as the inexorable pull of the sun drawing the comet ever closer.

Posted in: Space Science

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