Philae comet lander wakes up after 7-month hibernation
The comet lander Philae surprised scientists when it suddenly woke up and contacted Earth after a seven-month hibernation, the European Space Agency announced Sunday.
Scientists had lost contact with the solar-powered probe after it was dropped on the icy comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by its mothership Rosetta on Nov. 15. Philae’s battery ran out at about 60 hours after it landed next to a cliff that largely blocked sunlight from reaching the lander’s solar panels.
Scientists had hoped the probe would wake up again as the comet approached the sun, enabling Philae’s solar panels to soak up enough light to charge the craft’s main battery. But there were fears its mission would be cut short.
Any such fears ended late Saturday, when the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, received signals.
“I’m not really surprised it happened, but if you wait for several months and then suddenly in the middle of the night you get a call saying, ‘We have a signal from Philae,’ it’s exciting,” said Stephan Ulamec, project manager at the German Aerospace Center, or DLR. “We’re very happy.”
Ulamec said the probe appears to have been awake for several days before it called home, because some of the information packets that the scientists received contained historical data.
A post on the Rosetta blog on the the European Space Agency’s website said Philae “spoke” with its team on the ground via Rosetta for 85 seconds in its first contact since November.
The post said during analysis of the status data, it became clear that Philae must have been awake before, and that the scientists are waiting for it to make contact again.