ESA Awakens Rosetta’s Comet Lander

by Jason Major on March 28, 2014

Artist's impression (not to scale) of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab.

Artist’s impression (not to scale) of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab.

Little Philae is awake! ESA sent a wake-up call to the 100-kg (220-lb) lander riding aboard the Rosetta spacecraft this morning at 06:00 GMT, bringing it out of its nearly 33-month-long slumber and beginning its preparation for its upcoming (and historic) landing on the surface of a comet in November.

Unlike Rosetta, which awoke in January via a pre-programmed signal, Philae received a “personal wake-up call” from Earth, 655 million kilometers away.

Hello, world! ESA's Rosetta and Philae comet explorers are now both awake and well!

Hello, world! ESA’s Rosetta and Philae comet explorers are now both awake and well!

A confirmation signal from the lander was received by ESA five and a half hours later at 11:35 GMT.

After over a decade of traveling across the inner Solar System, Rosetta and Philae are now in the home stretch of their ultimate mission: to orbit and achieve a soft landing on the inbound comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will be the first time either feat has ever been attempted — and hopefully achieved — by a spacecraft.

Read more: Rosetta Spacecraft Spies Its Comet As It Prepares For An August Encounter

After Rosetta maneuvers to meet up with the comet in May and actually enters orbit around it in August, it will search its surface for a good place for Philae to make its landing in November.

With a robotic investigator both on and around it, 67/P CG will reveal to us in intimate detail what a comet is made of and really happens to it as it makes its close approach to the Sun.

“Landing on the surface is the cherry on the icing on the cake for the Rosetta mission on top of all the great science that will be done by the orbiter in 2014 and 2015. A good chunk of this year will be spent identifying where we will land, but also taking vital measurements of the comet before it becomes highly active. No one has ever attempted this before and we are very excited about the challenge!”
– Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist

Meanwhile, today’s successful wake-up call let the Rosetta team know Philae is doing well. Further systems checks are planned for the lander throughout April.

Watch an animation of the deployment and landing of Philae on comet 67/P CG below:

Source: ESA’s Rosetta blog

Want to welcome Rosetta and Philae back on your computer? Download a series of ESA’s “Hello, World” desktop screens here.

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

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