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ESA releases high resolution photos of Philae's bumpy landing

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This mosaic is made of pictures taken by OSIRIS, a camera on the Rosetta spacecraft, during a 30-minute period spanning Philae’s touchdown.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released high-resolution pictures of the Philae probe landing on Comet 67P.

The pictures were taken with the Narrow Angle Camera on the Rosetta satellite, which dropped the probe towards the surface of 67P.

The images which are presented in the form of a mosaic, produced by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, cover the 30 minutes or so of the probe’s “first touchdown” then its bouncing and stopping approximately 1 kilometer away.

The probe bounced after its harpoon ice screws failed to deploy and anchor it to the target comet.

The probe’s exact resting spot still eludes scientists, but according to telemetry and pictures from the probe itself, its location is covered in deep shadow for most of the comet’s day.

As a consequence of this deep shadow the probe does not receive enough solar power to reboot and form a radio link to the spacecraft in orbit.

ESA controllers have not given up on hearing from the probe as in the future it may somehow receive sufficient light on its solar panels to recharge its systems.

During a teleconferenced NASA science advisory panel meeting in Washington on Monday, Former Rosetta manager Gerhard Schwehm said that jets of gas released by the comet as it warms, “could be a natural way that it gets lifted up” back into sunlight for a battery recharge.

The ESA says that even if the robot never recharges, it is still “hugely happy” as it achieved over 80 percent of its planned primary science campaign during the 50 hours of activity after landing.

On November 12, the Philae probe made history by landing on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after being released from the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft.

The craft was launched on board an Ariane rocket in March 2004, travelling round the Solar System to catch up with the four-kilometer-wide comet.


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