Astonishing new images show the terrifying moment
Philae bounced off Comet P67 and floated back into space. The mosaic of pictures captured by the
Rosetta orbiter’s OSIRIS camera show the Philae lander bumping into
the comet’s hard surface before rebounding off towards the east at
about 0.5 metres per second.
The images will play a crucial role in ongoing
efforts to find the final resting place of the sleeping lander.
Philae lost battery power early on Saturday morning and is no
longer communicating with Earth. Scientists remain hopeful that it
will come back to life when more sunlight reaches its solar panels
P67/Churyumov-Gerasimenko continues to
approach the Sun.
From left to right the images show Philae approaching
the comet before touching down and bouncing off over a 30-minute period. The image on the far right shows
Philae as it flew back up off the comet, with the initial bounce
taking it 1km into space. The rotation of the comet under Philae
during this time means it is likely to have travelled a distance of
1km from its planned landing site.
Shortly after announcing Philae had landed on 67P, the
team at the European Space Agency believed that
its landing gear had failed to deploy properly with further
analysis of telemetry revealing it had bounded back into space
before being pulled back down by 67P’s meagre gravity.
As had previously been thought, Philae bounced
off the comet in an easterly direction and is likely stuck behind a
large boulder or cliff. As Philae’s battery is now dead it is
reliant on solar power to continue operating but telemetry from the
lander shows it is not receiving enough sunlight.
The final location of Philae is still not known but
mission scientists are confident that they will soon locate the
plucky little lander. By using a combination of CONSERT (COmet
Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radio-wave Transmission) data
and images from the Rosetta OSIRIS camera
and other images from both lander and orbiter, it is hoped that the
whereabouts of Philae will soon be confirmed.
Despite a tricky final resting place Philae
still managed to complete 80 percent of its planned primary mission
during its short life on the surface of 67P. Scientists spent much
of Friday 14 November frantically pulling data from the lander
before it ran out of power shortly after midnight on Saturday
With reams of data to look at, researchers will
be kept busy for many years. Partial results from one instrument,
MUPUS, have already been released. The hammer, which was designed
to break 67P’s surface and take readings, broke
upon impact. The harder-than-expected surface of the comet may
explain why Philae failed to land as expected.