Europe’s tiny robot lab Philae, hurtling through space on the back of a comet, has sent home its first message in nearly seven months. Scientists have said that Philae may soon resume science work, opening up a new chapter in its exhilarating voyage.
- Philae touched down on the comet on November 12 after an epic 10-year trek piggybacking on Rosetta.
Philae ’s mission was to land successfully on the surface of a comet, attach itself, and transmit data from the surface about the comet’s composition. It is a robotic European Space Agency lander.
It landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, more than ten years after departing Earth.
- The mission seeks to unlock the long-held secrets of comets — primordial clusters of ice and dust that scientists believe may reveal how the Solar System was formed.
- The scientific goals of the mission focus on “elemental, isotopic, molecular and mineralogical composition of the cometary material, the characterization of physical properties of the surface and subsurface material, the large-scale structure and the magnetic and plasma environment of the nucleus.”
- Sensors on the lander will measure the density and thermal properties of the surface, gas analyzers will help detect and identify any complex organic chemicals that might be present, while other tests will measure the magnetic field and interaction between the comet and solar wind.
- Philae is equipped with an array of experiments to photograph and test the surface of Comet 67P as well as to find out what happens when the roasting effect of the sun drives off gas and dust.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, http://static.guim.co.uk/.