Rosetta’s Philae Lander wakes up and starts talking

15 Jun 2015

Comet lander wakes up and talks to ESA for 85 seconds

The Philae comet lander – thought lost after skipping across the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and landing in a shady spot without enough sunlight – came out of hibernation on 13 June and spoke to mission controllers at the European Space Agency.

Philae shut down on 15 November 2014 at 1.15am CET after being in operation on the comet for about 60 hours. Since 12 March 2015 the communication unit on orbiter Rosetta was turned on to listen out for the lander.

The signals were received at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt at 10.28pm CEST on 13 June. More than 300 data packets have been analysed by the teams at the Lander Control Center at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

“Philae is doing very well: It has an operating temperature of -35ºC and has 24 Watts available,” explained DLR Philae project manager Dr Stephan Ulamec. “The lander is ready for operations.”

For 85 seconds Philae “spoke” with its team on the ground, via Rosetta, in its first contact since going into hibernation in November.

When analysing the status data it became clear that Philae also must have been awake earlier: “We have also received historical data — so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier.”

Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact.  There are still more than 8,000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory, which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Space enthusiasts in Ireland will be able to hear the latest about the mission on Thursday, during Susan McKenna Lawlor’s keynote on at Inspirefest 2015, which is about The Rosetta Mission and the Philae Comet Lander.

Inspirefest 2015 is Silicon Republic’s international event running 18-20 June in Dublin, connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.

Rosetta Philae Lander image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years