On March 2, 2004, the European Space Agency launched a robotic space probe named “Rosetta” carrying the lander “Philae.” After a decade-long mission, the Rosetta spacecraft along with the lander caught up to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August of last year. On Nov. 12, 2014, the Philae lander was deployed to orbit the comet’s craggy surface, becoming the first spacecraft in history to land on and study a comet. Unfortunately, the lander took a bad bounce and eventually came to rest in the shadow of rocky cliffs. It sent back to Earth data and pictures, but the machine’s batteries quickly drained due to its solar panels being shielded from the sun. The lander took a deep sleep and communications went dark after.
After long agonizing months, European scientists were once given hope when the lost spacecraft woke up from its hibernation. Powering back up, the lander seemed to have received enough sunlight, as scientists hope it would.
European scientists are confident they will be able to start experimenting on the surface of a speeding comet in no time after data from the lander are analyzed. Barbara Cozzoni, lander control center engineer for the German Aerospace Center, told reporters at the International Paris Air Show that information gleaned from the Philae lander’s brief transmissions on June 13 and 14 had begun to be deciphered.
Philae sent a cheerful message back to Earth over Twitter on June 14, exactly 7 months after its previous tweet, which ended with “I’ll tell you more about my new home, comet #67P soon… zzzzz.”