Philae Comet Lander Regains Contact, Then Shuts Down

For about two hours the lander transmitted data from the comet, until its batteries ran out and it shut down.


Rosetta has regained contact with the Philae lander on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space reported Friday night.

Philae transmitted data gathered from the comet, including data from a drill it conducted, to the space agency, until its batteries ran out and it stopped transmitting.

On Wednesday Philae became the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet. Since then it has sent astonishing images from the icy, dusty comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and generated some data from onboard instruments such as one that measures temperatures. All this is taking place 500 million kilometers from Earth on a comet traveling 66,000 kph through space.

Scientists hope the $1.6 billion project launched a decade ago will help them better understand comets and other celestial objects, as well as possibly answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.

Philae bounced twice on the comet before coming to rest Wednesday after two harpoons that should have anchored it to the surface failed to deploy. Controllers still haven't been able to pinpoint its position, but photos indicate it's next to a cliff that is largely blocking sunlight from reaching two of its three solar panels.