Philae lander waking up

The New York Times is reporting this morning that spacecraft Rosetta’s Philae lander, which bounced onto the surface of a comet last November and into a mostly shadowed position, has gathered enough sunlight to begin waking up. It was able to contact Rosetta yesterday.

Researchers still don’t know the lander’s exact location but have narrowed the search to this elliptical area on the comet’s head:


The article includes many more photos of the comet that I’d not seen before — spectacular photos with captions that prompt me to ask: How, in deep space with no gravity and no reference points, do scientists agree on what is “up” or “down”?

Regardless, I think the photos are breathtaking … beginning with this one:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen from the Rosetta spacecraft 129 miles away
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen from the Rosetta spacecraft 129 miles away

That the lander is waking up is exciting news. But for me the most remarkable achievement was catching a comet after a ten-year chase and landing something on its surface. The logistics involved are mind-numbing and awe-inspiring.

7 thoughts on “Philae lander waking up

  1. That photo from the mother ship is indeed excellent. And historic. I can see the truth of what I read recently about comets, thanks to this project. Comets, or at least this one, appear to be not so much “dirty snowballs” as “icy mud balls.”

    1. I think it’s the lighting that got me. Like something on a dark stage standing in a lone spotlight. And the dust and gases lend sort of a halo effect. So dramatic. So unearthly. So appropriate.

      I’ve heard all about the different supposed composition of comets, but this one, to me, just looks like a giant rock. Or two rocks smashed together (which is what was reported — that it’s two bodies that collided). Reminds me of a giant alien knucklebone …

... and that's my two cents