Sunday, June 14, 2015

Space Science "Sunday Fare": Rosetta's Comet Lander, Philae, Is. . . AWAKE!

We all (goofy amateurs who follow matters of space science, generally) optimistically expected that -- as the comet drew closer in, toward a distance about equal to the orbit of Mars, and began to warm up, more and more of the ice would melt, and my little buddie Philae's solar panels would get some sunlight. We hoped it might get more than just some. And, that has in fact occurred!

You may recall the European Space Agency's mission scientists thought, back in November of 2014, that little Philae ended up stuck under an icy crevice, tipped to one side, and thus was suffering from shadows obscuring all sunlight, for most of the "days" -- on that comet's surface. And so. . . its batteries died. But this morning, it phoned (radioed) up to Rosetta -- and Rosetta just relayed the call home. Per ESA, then:

. . . .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. . . .

Now, mission scientists will adjust Rosetta's orbit around the comet, to get more "talk time" -- with my lil' buddie, on the surface. It will be an exciting science summer, through to October of 2015, at least. Excellent; and Onward!

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