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Philae Awakens!

Splendid news! The little comet rider is awake and sending marvelous photos home to Earth. The BBC has the whole scoop.

When Philae first sent back images of its landing location, researchers could see it was in a dark ditch. The Sun was obscured by a high wall, limiting the amount of light that could reach the robot’s solar panels.

Scientists knew they only had a limited amount of time – about 60 hours – to gather data before the robot’s battery ran flat.

But the calculations also indicated that Philae’s mission might not be over for good when the juice did eventually run dry. The comet is currently moving in towards the Sun, and the intensity of light falling on Philae, engineers suggested, could be sufficient in time to re-boot the machine.

And so it has proved. There is some relief also, because the very low temperatures endured by the lander in recent months could have done irreparable damage to some of the circuitry.

The fact that both the computer and transmitter have fired up indicate that the engineering has stood up remarkably well to what must have been really quite extreme conditions. Scientists must now hope they can get enough power into Philae to carry out a full range of experiments.

One ambition not fulfilled before the robot went to sleep was to try to drill into the comet, to examine its chemical make-up. One attempt was made last year, and it failed. A second attempt will now become a priority.

You can follow the ESA (European Space Agency) blog for ongoing updates. This is exciting and very cool stuff.

mock-up of the Philae and it's mothership Rosetta

mock-up of the Philae and it’s mothership Rosetta

Photos from ESA files

Photos from ESA files

Photo from ESA files

Photo from ESA files

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About Cedar Sanderson

Writer, mother, reader, gardener, cook… artist.

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