Update: Philae Sleeps, but the Mission Goes On


Once again, a series of press reports have been released by the European Space Agency, relating to the progress of their Rosetta Mission. These reports contain some fairly significant information, especially in terms of how the mission is going to continue in the short-term. 

After 57 hours on Comet 67P (which includes three separate landings) the Philae Lander has been able to complete all scientific investigations included as part of the primary mission. The data from these experiments was successfully transmitted to Rosetta, and from there was passed on to ESA teams here on Earth. Analysis of this information is ongoing, and will hopefully give scientists a valuable insight into comets.

The ESA Team were also able to rotate the main body of Philae by 35° in an attempt to expose more solar panels to sunlight. However, shortly after the last scientific data was transmitted Philae went into hibernation following a lack of power. The ESA hope, however, that once Comet 67P gets closer to the Sun, Philae will be able to resume communications, and as such resume the mission. The timing of this is important, as being slightly closer to the Sun will enable Philae’s solar panels to generate more power by exposing them to more intense light, but by March 2015 the comet is expected to be so close to the Sun as to make the internal temperature of the lander too hot for it to continue to function.

Until then, while Philae may hibernate, Rosetta is continuing to survey Comet 67P. By the 6th of December 2014 Rosetta will be place in a 20km orbit around the comet and will remain in this position in order to utilise its suite of 11 instruments. This will allow for a survey to be completed as the comet enters its most active stage, providing extra data for the ESA Team here on Earth.

We at the Wessex Scene will continue to provide summaries of key events as and when they happen. Until then, the Rosetta website and Twitter feed are the best place to go for updates.


History student, Union rep and tech advocate. I sometimes design pretty things as well. I'm @thatsamdedman on Twitter!

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