Comet robot lab makes contact again: agency


rosetta-graphic20150616PARIS: Europe’s robot lab Philae has made follow-up contact with Earth more than a day after sending home its first message in nearly seven months since landing on a comet, its ground operators said Monday.

The lander reestablished contact early Monday morning GMT, and is now “completely awake”, Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the French CNES space agency told television station France 2.

After a long hibernation with its batteries run down, Philae sent home its first message on Saturday night after a crucial solar recharge.

It landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12 after an epic 10-year trek piggybacking on its mothership Rosetta.

But instead of harpooning itself onto the iceball’s surface, the lander bounced several times before settling at an angle in a dark ditch.

It had enough stored battery power for about 60 hours of experiments, enabling it to send home reams of data before going into standby mode.

The hope was that better light as the comet approaches the Sun would recharge Philae’s batteries enough for it to reboot, then make contact, and ultimately carry out a new series of experiments.

The comet on which Philae is perched is now 215 million kilometers (134 million miles) from the Sun and 305 million km from Earth, racing at a speed of 31.24 km a second.

It is approaching perihelion, the closest point to the Sun in the comet’s orbit, on August 13, after which “67P” will veer off again into the deeper reaches of space.

Le Gall said the comet was by now in full activity, with “bursts of gas, bursts of dust, and thanks to Philae, we can observe it all first-hand.”

The mission seeks to unlock the long-held secrets of comets—primordial clusters of ice and dust that scientists believe may reveal how the Solar System was formed.



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