Rosetta has found Philae!
7 September 2016
Scientists from ESA have spotted the robotic lander Philae, thought to have been lost on comet 67P! Philae was launched from a larger space probe called Rosetta in 2014, and has spent nearly two years on the comet’s surface. It has just been found in photos taken by a very high-resolution camera onboard Rosetta.
The first person to see the new pictures of Philae was Cecilia Tubiana, a scientist from the camera team. She says, “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.”
Before these photos were taken, Philae was last seen briefly touching down on the comet before it bounced off and tumbled for two hours due to the low force of gravity. It eventually came to a stand-still on the comet’s surface. It went into hibernation mode to save power, only waking up to say a brief “hello!” to Rosetta in June and July 2015.
This message allowed ESA scientists to know roughly where Philae was on the comet. A long search for its exact location went on for months, and scientists had a hunch that this location was the right one. Now the high resolution images prove it! This is a great relief to mission scientists, who thought that the probe would be lost forever.
Rosetta itself is now on a one-way mission to the surface of the comet, where it is expected to crash-land on 30 September. As it gets closer and closer, it will take more and more photos of the surface of the comet, allowing us to complete the story of this incredible mission!
Cool fact: the Rosetta probe has been hard at work in space for over 12 years!