Rosetta space probe finds lost Philae lander on Comet 67P
A month before the end of its mission, the Rosetta probe has made another discovery. The probe managed to capture photographs the missing Philae lander, which NASA officials haven’t been able to find since 2014.
COMET 67P — Less than one month before the end of its mission, the Rosetta probe has made a yet another discovery: the location of its sister, the Philae comet lander.
Rosetta has had quite the time in space. The probe has been surveying Comet 67P — also known as Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In 2011, Rosetta was placed in hibernation mode for 31 months to conserve energy and traveled to the most distant part of its journey. In November 2014, it released Philae, which landed on the comet, the first time a spacecraft has ever done so.
However, Philae bounced during its landing and was only in operation for a short time before it powered down. Experts have unable to locate the lander since.
Currently, Rosetta is nearing the orbit of Jupiter, which means it’s running short on solar power and bandwidth required to downlink necessary data. At the moment, the probe is gathering as much data about the comet as possible. It recently found the amino acid glycine, a crucial building block of life, in the dust surrounding the comet. And in about a month’s time, Rosetta will crash into the comet, ending its mission.
Before doing so, Rosetta has given researchers one last gift. The probe captured images of the Philae lander, or at least, what’s left of it, on its high-resolution camera. Images showed the lander with two of its three legs, trapped in a dark crack on the comet where it was unable to absorb sunlight and recharge. This explains why the lander powered down after only three days of activity.
After going into hibernation, the lander powered up again and attempted communication with the ESA in June and July 2015 when the comet came closer to the sun.
It’s a bittersweet discovery, but at least Philae’s fate will no longer be a mystery.
A month before its mission’s end, the Rosetta probe captured hi-res images of the missing Philae lander on Comet 67P. REUTERS
The Philae lander was located in a dark crack, with two of its three legs in tact, on the comet where it was unable to absorb sunlight and recharge. EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY
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