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Philae Lander Found Hidden in Crack of Comet by Rosetta Camera

Image: Philae Lander Found Hidden in Crack of Comet by Rosetta Camera

The Philae lander was found in a crack on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by a high-resolution camera on the orbiter Rosetta. (European Space Agency)

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Sep 2016 09:14 AM

The Philae comet lander was found hidden in a crack on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by a high-resolution camera on the orbiter Rosetta last week.

The Philae lander, which made history on Nov. 12, 2014, by landing on a comet, bounced during its landing, flew for another two hours and landed in a different location than originally intended, called Abydos, the European Space Agency said in a news release.

Philae's main solar-powered battery exhausted and went into hibernation three days later because the lander came to rest in a shaded area of the comet. The lander briefly communicated with the Rosetta orbiter in June and July of last year as the comet flew closer to the sun, ESA said in its statement.

"After months of work, with the focus and the evidence pointing more and more to this lander candidate, I'm very excited and thrilled that we finally have this all-important picture of Philae sitting in Abydos," said Laurence O’Rourke, who coordinated ESA's search for the lander on the comet.

While ESA scientists do not think the lander can be revived, they can make a better judgment about the information received from it by knowing its exact resting place, BBC News reported.

"It was very important to find Philae before the mission ended, to understand the context of its in-situ scientific measurements," Mark McCaughrean, the space agency's senior science adviser, told the BBC News.

"But it was probably just as important to provide some emotional closure for the millions who have been following both Philae and Rosetta through the trials and tribulations of their exploration of this remarkable remnant of the birth of our Solar System," McCaughrean added.

McCaughrean said the Rosetta orbiter will land on the comet itself Sept. 30, giving researchers another close-up of the comet before the mission ends. Rosetta will examine open pits in the Ma'at region, in hope of revealing important information about the comet's interior structure.

"This remarkable discovery comes at the end of a long, painstaking search," Patrick Martin, ESA's Rosetta Mission Manager said in the space agency's statement. "We were beginning to think that Philae would remain lost forever. It is incredible we have captured this at the final hour."

Rosetta, which took off in 2004, became the first spacecraft to orbit a comet's nucleus, to examine a comet from close proximity and to dispatch and lander onto the surface of a comet, according to the European Space Agency.

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The Philae comet lander was found hidden in a crack on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by a high-resolution camera on the orbiter Rosetta last week.
philae, comet, lander, found
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2016-14-06
Tuesday, 06 Sep 2016 09:14 AM
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