Lost Philae comet lander finally turns up jammed in space rock crevice
The revelation by the European Space Agency has sparked excitement in the world of astronomy and beyond as many continued to root for the little robot to be located after it crash-landed in November 2014.
— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) September 6, 2016
The ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft captured images of the lander stuck in a dark crack on surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Friday, less than a month before the mission is due to end.
The images released Monday and taken by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera show the main body of the lander, along with two of its three legs.
With only a month left of the Rosetta mission, we are so happy to have finally imaged Philae, and to see it in such amazing detail,” Cecilia Tubiana of the OSIRIS camera team said in a statement.
Philae was dropped onto the comet by Rosetta in 2014 but bounced around to another location and went into hibernation three days later as its solar powered batteries failed.
It managed to transmit data from 60 hours of experiments, before its batteries went dead but its resting place remained a mystery.
Philae briefly resurrected in June and July 2015 and communicated with Rosetta as the comet came closer to the Sun and more power was available, but its precise location was not identified.
“This remarkable discovery comes at the end of a long, painstaking search,” says Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta Mission Manager. “We were beginning to think that Philae would remain lost forever. It is incredible we have captured this at the final hour.”
Earlier this year European scientists gave up hope on regaining contact with Philae, admitting it would be too cold to operate.
It took Rosetta, along with Philae, 10 years to reach the comet and drop the landing module onto its surface.
On September 30, the orbiter will view the comet from close up and learn more about the secrets of its structure before the mission comes to an end.