Have We Found Rosetta’s Lost Philae Lander?
Left image from Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera shows the Philae lander on November 12, 2014 after it left the spacecraft for the comet’s nucleus. Right: Close-up of a promising lander candidate photographed on December 13, 2014. The view covers about 65 x 65 feet (20 x 20 meters). Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
It’s only a bright dot in a landscape of crenulated rocks, but the Rosetta team thinks it might be Philae, the little comet lander lost since November.
The Rosetta and Philae teams have worked tirelessly to search for the lander, piecing together clues of its location after a series of unfortunate events during its planned landing on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko last November 12.
Mosaic photo capturing Philae’s flight above the comet’s nucleus and one of its three touchdowns on November 12, 2014. The images cover a 30 minute period spanning the first touchdown. The Greenwich Mean Time time of each of image is marked on the corresponding insets. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Philae first touched down at the Agilkia landing site that day, but the harpoons that were intended to anchor it to the surface failed to work, and the ice screws alone weren’t enough to do the job. The lander bounced after touchdown and sailed above the comet’s nucleus for two hours before finally settling down at a site called Abydos a kilometer from its intended landing site.
No one yet knows exactly where Philae is, but an all-out search has finally turned up a possible candidate.