Images show Philae's historic comet bounce

November 17, 2014
Three handout photos released on November 16, 2014, by the European Space Agency shows Philae's touchdown site before and after landing, seen by Rosetta's navigation camera on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

The European Space Agency (ESA)on Sunday unveiled images of the probe Philae after it bounced while making its historic landing on a comet last Wednesday.

The discovery came thanks to painstaking follow-up analysis of a series of pictures ESA had released on Friday, the agency said.

The photos appeared to show only a trail of dust kicked up by Philae when it touched down and rebounded after a pair of harpoons, designed to anchor it to the comet's surface, failed to work.

But closer scrutiny of the images has shown a bright dot that is Philae, as well as a dark dot made by its shadow as it zooms upwards in the rebound.

"It appears as a couple of brighter pixels closely accompanied by its shadow in the form of a couple of darker ones just below, both to the right of the diffuse dust cloud shadow," ESA's Rosetta mission said in a blog post.

The discovery came from hours of patient work by flight dynamics specialist Gabriele Bellei, the posting said.

A science lab laden with 10 instruments, Philae was sent down to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by its mother ship Rosetta, after a 10-year trek that covered 6.5 billion kilometres (four billion miles) around the inner Solar System.

After its first bounce, it is believed Philae landed and bounced once more before settling around a kilometre from its target site.

The lander found itself at an angle and in the shadow of a cliff, which meant its solar panels were unable to capture the sunlight it needed to recharge its batteries.

A scientist wears a t-shirt depicting the European Space Agency's robot craft Philae, in the scientific mission observation centre of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in Toulouse on November 12, 2014

But ESA says Philae successfully carried out its scheduled research programme thanks to a battery that had enough charge for 60 hours' work.

Philae has now gone into standby mode for lack of power. Mission managers still have some hope it will revive as the races closer to the Sun, bringing greater illumination.

Approved in 1993 and launched in 2004, the Rosetta mission aims to uncover the chemical and physical secrets of comets—primordial clusters of ice and dust that may explain the origins of the Solar System and, say some, of life on Earth.

Explore further: European probe plants thermometer on comet

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Europe's Rosetta spacecraft made contact with its robot craft Philae soon after the lander embarked Wednesday on a solo, seven-hour descent to a comet, ground controllers said. (WATCH LIVE)

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EyeNStein
1 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2014
After 40 years of reaching out further into space. The only constant is the low-res monochrome published images that Sherlock Holmes would be hard pressed to derive information from.
Perhaps in ANOTHER 40 years we will get HD images of a descent and at a better frame rate.
(Not to diminish the hours of eye strain looking at massively zoomed in images which generated this publication - It's the technology which is lagging behind our ambitions.)
imido
Nov 17, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (8) Nov 17, 2014
What kind of trolling is this one?

Such a statement and then you start trolling. Nice.

Hypocrit much?
imido
Nov 17, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (7) Nov 17, 2014
Yes. All of it .
- It's a bit easier to do aerobraking when you have an atmosphere.
- It's easier to just hurl something at a planet and know gravity will make it stick than at something where the slightest misstep will cause it to go careening off into the cosmos.
- It's also a bit easier to find a level landing place with an entire planet to choose from with good maps years in advance which has atmosphere (and winds that cause level fields through erosion) than on a small, jagged lump of rock with limited prewarn time and limited image material.
- It is easier to design a craft to stay alive for 8 months without fault than for 10 years in the depths of space.

- do I need to go on? Or are you just gonna hoist the "I'm stuipid"-flag yourself?
javjav
4.5 / 5 (8) Nov 17, 2014
imido you are wrong, ESA already made another successful lander ( Huygens on Titan), but this is not a race USA against EU, as they collaborate constantly (both missions are examples). It is a successful collaboration, and it is the way to go. Think on the US science you are so proud about:. American rockets? Nuclear? Quantum mechanics? American Cars? American television? all of it is mainly based on european science and european technology ( Von Braun, Oppenheimer, Einstein ...), but developed with american money. That is a formula that works well, just continue using it.
imido
Nov 17, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
EyeNStein
1 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2014
They said it themselves. The retros didn't fire. The harpoons didn't work. They don't know if the footing screws or the sample drill ever penetrated the comet.
I hope this project yields useful results from a soil sample or ESA will become a byword for failed-on-arrival space exploration projects.
The issue isn't the impressive orbital mechanics or rugged long life electronics (both of which we know can be done) its "results people".
javjav
5 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2014
I hope this project yields useful results from a soil sample or ESA will become a byword for failed-on-arrival space exploration projects.
What you mean? this mission has been already a success. Europeans have successfully sent orbiters to Mars and Venus, landed on Titan, sent cargo ships to the ISS, and each of these missions for a fraction of the cost of a NASA equivalent. They have the most profitable rocket and also the most secure (Arian 5), up to the point that it has been selected for launching the James Webb telescope. They failed in a mars lander, but their failure rate is the smallest of any space agency, by far.
big_hairy_jimbo
5 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2014
People, concentrate on the actual mission, not the organisations behind it. Ohh and remember the mission is not over. The orbiter is still fully functional, and the lander may well wakeup later on. Also note that 67p was a last minute destination for the mission, as the original mission was delayed by 12months due to Arian blowing up a few times. This made 67p the best NEXT choice, which was right on the limits of being able to reach. Hence the need for hybernation to save power. The fact that they were able to match the velocity and location in the comets orbit, then orbit the comet is amazing in my book!!! Pity we can't get an orbiter to Pluto yet, only a high speed fly-by.

Space is hard, so anyone who tries it, is bloody brilliant in my book.
No guarantees in this game
Eddy Courant
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2014
Um. Don't you have to be in sunlight, to cast a shadow.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2014
There's another factor. Remember the Apollo missions struggled with those lunar mascons, that made low-orbits 'bumpy', and navigation fraught ? And that with an orbital mission, followed by a low-level fly-by before the first landing ? This comet has that issue in spades. Even the rough shape was unknown until a few months prior to landing, while the local gravitational field of the 'rubber duck' would change direction during the lander's approach....

After ten years en-route, they did well to get the lander down in one piece. A pity the harpoons didn't fire, but they'll know better next time. And, yes, a tetrahedron trumps a tripod...

There's a cruel joke going around that ESA should have brought the Japanese in on the landing phase. After all, they're used to harpooning stuff !!
EyeNStein
not rated yet Nov 26, 2014
My chief point is that ESA has a habit of failures happening in deep space due to quirky designs. Like the beach ball they sent to Mars and the guncotton fired harpoons. (When they were warned guncotton is unreliable in space.)
NASA spend WAY more but their ultrasonic parachute was revealed as a major design fail in an early test not on Mars. NASA's failures tend to be managerial. Like the forced challenger launch in icy weather and the denied telescope wing check on Columbia.
But thanks JavJav for resetting the balance on the results scores.

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