Mission accomplished: Philae lander
Ten years after its launch, the Rosetta mission made history Wednesday (November 12, 2014) by landing on the surface of the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. From a distance in space of more than 500 million km, the Philae lander sent confirmation of its own successful touchdown on the surface of comet on Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, November 13 – after initially failing to attach to the surface – Philae appeared to be stable and was sending feedback data.
The landing was successful despite difficulties that occurred and the two harpoons which did not launch. Philae bounced and actually landed three times, nearly bouncing back into space. The lander’s ice screws also did not activate, and Philae has apparently unbalanced but remained upright.
Rosetta’s Philae lander is now sleeping soundly, at least for the time being. But before it went into sleep mode, the lander sent all of its’ planned science data back to Earth. So the Rosetta scientists are working hard analyzing the probe’s discoveries, and we’ll have more and more information about the comet in the future time thanks to the success of Philae.
The European Space Agency’s Philae lander discovered organic molecules containing the element that is the basis of life on Earth, carbon, before its primary battery ran out of energy and it went into snooze mode.
The scientists said it was not clear up till now whether the molecules included the complex compounds that make up proteins. One of the key objectives of the mission is to find out whether carbon-based compounds were brought to early Earth by comets and so, the life begun.
The Philae lander has found organic molecules – which are essential for life – on the surface of the comet where it touched down last week.
The spacecraft managed to give back evidence of the carbon and hydrogen–containing chemicals shortly before it entered hibernation mode to conserve falling power supplies.
Many scientists believe they may have been carried here on an asteroid or comet that collided with the Earth during its early history.
The DLR German Aerospace Centre, which built the Cosac instrument, confirmed it had found organic molecules.
It said in a statement: “Cosac was able to ‘sniff’ the atmosphere and detect the first organic molecules after landing. Analysis of the spectra and the identification of the molecules are continuing.”
The compounds were picked up by the instrument, which is designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere, shortly before the lander was powered down.
It is believed that attempts to analyze soil drilled from the comet’s surface with Cosac were not successful.
Philae was able to work for more than 60 hours on the comet, which is more than 500 million km away from Earth, before entering hibernation.
“We currently have no information on the quantity and weight of the soil sample,” said Fred Goesmann, PI (principal investigator) on the Cosac instrument at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.
It is believed that as the comet approaches the Sun, Philae will come back to life as its solar panels will receive the necessary volume of energy. Until then, the scientists received a given amount of data that currently is being processed.