The European Space Agency’s Philae lander is giving the agency reason to worry: it has landed on a comet in November 2014 and has not been showing signs of activity since then. But, everything is under the bridge now. The Philae has phoned home and that’s what’s important.
The landing of Philae did not go according to plan. It received a rough send off from Rosetta its mother ship. The parachute didn’t work as expected causing it to have a bumpy landing in an area where it was not supposed to be hidden from the light of sun and may have suffered from minor damages.
It was expected to wake up last March yet when the 67P comet was getting closer to the sun. The solar panels would be recharged then and the Philae would wake up. But June isn’t a bad time for the Philae to wake up.
Now it can start digging up the ground soil of the comet and discover what the comet has to hide beneath it’s surface.
Landing the Philae at comet 67P is a pioneering effort in man’s deep space venture. It seems what was doomed to failure will now come to fruition. It was seventh month to be exact when the lander parachuted from its mother craft Rosetta and that was the last time it was heard of until now.
ESA’s managers have been trying to find clues to locate this washing machine sized lander. They are studying photo images transmitted to Earth by the Rosetta spacecraft that is orbiting Comet 67P in order to determine where exactly in the comet Philae landed. The team is looking at the probability that Philae descended in a shady area of the comet where there wasn’t enough sunlight to charge the spacecraft’s solar panels which led to its shutdown after its first 60 hours on the surface. The closest point the mission team is considering is outside of the comet. ESA surveyed the target area last Dec. 12 and 13, 2014. The bright image that was reflected in one of the photos they obtained from the Rosetta spacecraft transmissions may likely be the three legged lander as an earlier image of the comet taken on October 22 of last year months before Philae landed showed no bright spot.
However, the team refuses to claim that the mystery is solved as the Comet 67P “plays host to a lot of bright formations.” To determine whether or not the bright spot is really the missing lander, scientists would need higher resolution images which could be taken if the photos were shot from a closer angle. However, that is highly risky at the moment as Rosetta’s navigation systems tended to malfunction when earlier this year, it drew nearer to the target ellipse. Because of this, the team is “playing it safe for now,” says ESA.
To make things even more complicated, ESA’s search team is constantly readjusting the size and shape of the search area as new information about the comet is collected. Philae landed a bit farther from its original touch down course — about a kilometer or 0.6 miles from where it initially landed, says the European Space Agency (ESA) in an update on Thursday. In the 60 hours the three-legged lander was functioning since its landing, the ESA utilized the radio signals beamed back and forth from Philae to Rosetta to determine where Philae landed. But now, space scientists are uncertain about where Philae landed within that 16 meter by 160 meter (52 foot by 524 foot) ellipse on the comet area.
Philae project manager Stephan Ulamec said they remain positive that Philae would soon resuscitate and help the team find its exact location. “The conditions for Philae’s wake-up are becoming more and more favorable as the comet approaches the sun.” Ulamec also disclosed that that his team of engineers is ready to conduct possible experiments with Philae as soon as it wakes up.