Missing Philae lander spotted stuck in a ditch on a comet's surface just a month before the end of the mission.
Rosetta spacecraft has finally spotted its lost companion Philae lander after a two year search.
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The image taken by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on Friday (Sep. 2) shows that Philae lander is still resting on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but not in very good condition. The lander is stuck in a dark ditch between the rocks with one of its three legs awkwardly hanging in the air.
This is the first sighting of Philae since its hard landing in November 2014 and also considered a timely one, just one month before the official end of the mission.
"With only a month left of the Rosetta mission, we are so happy to have finally imaged Philae and to see it in such amazing detail.” Cecilia Tubiana from the OSIRIS camera tea and the first person to see the images said.
European Space Agency cut the communication with Philae in July this year after receiving no signal from the comet lander for almost one year. It was thought that the lander was lost forever. The latest images of Philae clearly explain why researchers could not regain contact with the comet lander despite their desperate efforts.
“This remarkable discovery comes at the end of a long, painstaking search,” said Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta Mission Manager. “We were beginning to think that Philae would remain lost forever. It is incredible we have captured this at the final hour.
The 220-pound robot touched down on comet 67P in November 2014 and conducted 60 hours of experiments in order to understand the composition of the comet before getting into the state of hibernation on 15 November 2014. However, until now, the exact location of the comet lander was not known.
The latest images taken at the distance of 2.7 kilometers from the surface of the comet tracked down the location of the lander and found its body pinned against rocks on comet.
“Now that the lander search is finished we feel ready for Rosetta's landing, and look forward to capturing even closer images of Rosetta's touchdown site.” Holger Sierks, principal investigator of the OSIRIS camera said.
On September 30, Rosetta will be crashed into the comet’s surface which it has been orbiting since 2014. The comet will become the eternal resting place of both the spacecraft and Philae lander.