Philae ‘In As Good A Condition As We Could Have Hoped’ — What’s Next?

posted: 06/15/15
by: Danny Clemens
Artist conception of Philae
European Space Agency

Ensconced in the shadows of the cliffs on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency's Philae lander came grinding to a halt on November 15th, as its solar-powered battery was unable to charge. The scientific community was taken by surprise when the spacecraft unexpectedly came rumbling back to life after 7 months of hibernation over the weekend.

According to engineers at the ESA's Lander Control Centre, Philae is presently exposed to enough heat and direct sunlight to charge the internal battery.

"While the information we have is very preliminary, it appears that the lander is in as good a condition as we could have hoped," adds Philae Lander Project Manager Stephan Ulamec.

In the meantime, the Philae team will initially only send low-power commands to the lander. The next major step to restarting Philae's mission involves optimizing the orbit of Rosetta, Philae's companion orbiter. Rosetta's current orbit is not designed for communication with Philae; it will be reoriented closer to the nucleus of the comet to maximize the two spacecrafts' ability to interact.

"If we manage to achieve and maintain a predictable contact pattern," continues Paolo Ferri, "the lander teams can devise a strategy for a new sequence of scientific operations."

Click here for more information from the ESA

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