Late last week, the world watched with amazement and wonder as the Philae lander landed on the surface of a comet. That amazement turned to worry as Philae’s landing wasn’t a smooth one. The lander’s anchoring harpoons failed to fire and the lander bounced off the comet.
Today, the European Space Agency (ESA) released a photo of Philae’s first bounce. The GIF below shows two images. It shows Philae’s initial impact site (first image) followed by the lander bouncing above the comet (second image).
While Philae’s bounce would ultimately impact its mission, it’s amazing the Rosetta spacecraft captured the above images.
With Philae’s batteries depleted, what’s next for the mission?
ESA officials expect to release the first results from experiments conducted by the Philae lander today. Philae’s batteries lasted just under 3 days, and officials took advantage of every moment.
I’m eagerly awaiting news from the hole Philae drilled into the comet. The lander drilled a 10-inch hole into comet 67P and pulled out a sample for analysis. This one sample could shed light on how life potentially began on Earth. Does the comet have water? Organic matter? We’ll see if Philae was able to help answer those questions shortly before it went to sleep.
ESA officials have said the Philae lander was able to conduct nearly all the planned experiments.
Just before Philae’s power ran out, scientists rotated the largest solar panel away from the shadow. There is a chance we hear from Philae again. As the comet gets closer to the sun, Philae could wake up as more sunlight becomes available.
If Philae does wake up again, time won’t be on its side. With the comet getting closer and closer to the sun, the surface will heat up. This will eventually fry the lander’s electronics, or melting ice could push the lander off the comet.
As for the Rosetta spacecraft? It will continue orbiting and observing the comet.
Image credits: ESA