Philae healthier: Proud ESA shows off first comet surface pic

Harpoon horror over, it's now 'stable'

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The ESA’s historic comet-landing probot Philae has re-established contact with mission control and is currently stable on the surface.

El Reg's space vulture Brid-Aine Parnell reports from mission command at the ESA ops complex at Darmstadt, Germany.

Philae takes a first look at the surface of Comet 67P

BEHOLD! The first picture of a comet surface taken from the surface of the comet! Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Boffins are still analysing exactly how the lander managed its epic touchdown yesterday when its harpoons failed to fire, but it now looks like the craft bounced twice before it finally finished landing.

Data has in from Philae instruments including MUPUS, ROMAP, ROLIS, COSAC, CONSERT and Ptolemy, which makes it look like Philae landed three times, first making a huge two hour bounce and then briefly bouncing again for another seven minutes.

The low gravity on Comet 67P, which turns Philae from a fridge-weight to lighter than a feather, is what caused the first long bounce.

Just how or why the lander stopped bouncing, whether its ice-screw legs have drilled into the surface and other questions remain to be answered, but the first image from the CIVA instrument shows Philae sitting on the space-rock.

In the picture, one of Philae’s legs can be seen in the foreground, though whether or not it’s touching the ground is difficult to make out. Though ESA won’t be saying anything until later this afternoon, theories abound, including the idea that the lander may have slid across the surface, to be stopped by the large rock seen in the picture.

The European Space Operations Control (ESOC) re-established contact with Rosetta, and through the mothersatellite, with Philae, early this morning after an expected loss of signal. Ignacio Tanco, deputy spacecraft operations manager, said in a quick update that the radio link was initially unstable, but as Rosetta rose higher above the Agilkia landing site, the link firmed up, allowing Philae to send both telemetry and science data.

In its current orbit, Rosetta should have around two Philae communication windows per day. The first today was between 6am GMT and 9.58am GMT and the second will be from 5.27pm GMT to 10.47pm GMT. However, the various instrument teams are getting around 26Kbps of science data to keep them busy analysing during downtime.

The ESOC team is also busy planning a thruster burn today that they will then ask Rosetta to perform on Friday to keep the comet-chasing satellite where it should be to stay in touch with Philae. ®


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