Philae Comet Lander Wakes Up

The culmination of a 20-year space mission is in full swing in June as Philae sent its first transmissions since landing in November. The interim hibernation was due to an off-nominal landing site that reduced the sunlight to the craft’s solar panels.

Philae is the lander that accompanied the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft, which allows the small unit to broadcast its information back to Earth. Their target was the  comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which circles the sun every 6.45 years halfway between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

As the comet nears the sun, Philae has sent data back to earth that includes the details of its rocky landing: instead of a dust plain, it sits in a pebbly ravine. The accidental location is a boon for scientists as geological information was the reason for the mission, and the nearby stones may be as old as the solar system itself.

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