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Rosetta's solar panels as seen by Philae's CIVA imaging system on April 14, 2014. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Rosetta’s Philae Lander Snaps a Selfie

15 Apr , 2014

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Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander’s CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA’s well-traveled Rosetta spacecraft, upon which the 100-kilogram Philae is mounted.

Philae successfully emerged from hibernation on March 28 via a wake-up call from ESA.

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 comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will be the first time either feat has ever been attempted by a spacecraft. Read more here.

Source: ESA Rosetta Blog

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gopher65
Member
gopher65
April 16, 2014 12:03 AM

Is the gravity of a small comet great enough to “hold” a spacecraft in orbit? Or will Rosetta have to use thrusters to maintain a steady distance from the comet?

Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
April 16, 2014 2:02 AM

According to this article in The Guardian, it states:

[…]. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is so small that its minute gravitational field is barely strong enough to hold Philae on its surface. The little lander will have to anchor itself to the comet with a harpoon to stop being flung off into space. Similarly, its mothership Rosetta will have to use its thrusters to circle the comet because the latter’s gravity field is too weak to keep the probe in orbit round it at a distance of more than 30km.

gopher65
Member
gopher65
April 16, 2014 12:15 PM

Huh, that’s cool. That will really decrease the possible length of the mission.

Does a “powered orbit” like that still count as an orbit, I wonder?

Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
April 16, 2014 10:03 PM

Well, according to Wikipedia’s Understanding orbits section, I don’t think so.

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