Where The Heck Did Philae Land? Rosetta Team Narrows The Cometary Search
A 3-D image of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko taken from the Philae lander as it descended. The picture is a combination of two images from the Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) taken about an hour before landing at 10:34 a.m. EST (3:34 p.m. UTC) on Nov. 12, 2014. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR
The first soft comet landing Nov. 12 showed us how space missions can quickly drift to the unexpected. Philae’s harpoons to secure it failed to fire, and the spacecraft drifted for an incredible two hours across Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko before coming to rest … somewhere. But where? And can the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft find it?
That’s been the obsession of the European Space Agency for the past couple of weeks. Controllers have pictures from Philae during its descent and brief science operations on the surface. They’ve managed to capture the little lander in incredible photographs from Rosetta. But the key to finding Philae will likely come from a different experiment altogether.
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