After seven months Rosetta’s lander Philae comes out of hibernation, sending more than 300 packets over 85 seconds to ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt. Ulamec:
Philae is doing very well: It has an operating temperature of -35ºC and has 24 Watts available. The lander is ready for operations. We have also received historical data – so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier.
Philae says on Twitter that its life on 67P has ‘just begun’. It doesn’t say what its current status is, but the tweet is the latest in a series announcing that it had completed a successful 35-degree rotation, and attempted to lift itself up to increase the sunlight available to its solar panels. Philae is currently ‘napping’ with its battery power low after saying it would use all its remaining power to communicate with Rosetta.
Philae’s battery may not last beyond Saturday due to its position on the comet, which is causing shadows to fall across its solar panels. Philae’s drill is being deployed to its maximum extent despite a risk of toppling Philae, as it tries to get core samples as quickly as possible to analyze in its onboard lab. Ulamec:
The drill has been active today. Whether it will sample and will succeed in bringing these samples to [laboratory] ovens – we shall know this evening. This would be fantastic but it is not secured – maybe the battery will be empty before we get contact again.
He says engineers are working on potential solutions to boost power:
We plan to rotate the lander a little bit so that at the position where we have now this one panel that gets sun, we’ll have a slightly larger panel and this would increase the chance that at a later stage the lander could wake up again and start talking to us again.
ESA may also start up Philae’s flywheel mechanism, which was used to keep it stable during descent, or shift its legs to bump it upwards, as even a small amount of force in the low gravitational field on 67P could bump it into a spot with more sunlight.
Photos sent from Philae show the lander’s view of the comet surface on approach, and during and after landing. The first picture transmitted after the ESA reestablishes a data link with Philae shows its current view, apparently inside a cave or hole on the comet, or possibly looking up from the foot of a cliff.
NASA’s head of planetary science, Jim Green, says the touchdown on the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet is evidence the solar system is now in the grasp of wider human exploration:
How audacious! How exciting! The solar system is mankind’s — this mission is the first step to take it. It’s ours… It’s these steps that will lead us beyond this planet and on to Mars and out into the solar system. I truly believe that a single-planet species will not survive long. It’s our destiny to move off this planet.