After two years of searching for Philae lander, Rosetta’s high-resolution camera revealed that it landed on a dark crack on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The images of the spacecraft were taken on Sept. 2 while Rosetta was 2.7 kilometers above the comet’s surface.
“This remarkable discovery comes at the end of a long, painstaking search,” points out 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.”
When the one-meter Philae lander touched down on Comet 67P’s Agilkia site in Nov. 12, 2014, things did not go as expected. Establishing communications became difficult. It then bounced and flew for another two hours and ended on the comet’s Abydos site.
The spacecraft had to rely on its battery, but after three days, it became exhausted and forced Philae into hibernation. Philae woke up and momentarily communicated with the Rosetta orbiter on June and July 2015.
Finding the spacecraft this September just occurred less than a month before Rosetta descends on the comet’s surface, the scientists said. Thankfully, Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera, which has a resolution of about 5 cm/pixel, provided the team with images of the Philae’s whereabouts in clear detail, adds Cecilia Tubiana of the OSIRIS camera team.
Holger Sierks, principal investigator of the OSIRIS camera, adds that they are prepared for Rosetta’s landing. The team is looking forward to gathering closer images of Rosetta’s landing site.
The orbiter will make its final one-way mission to investigate the comet on Sept. 30. The target locations would include the open pits in the comet’s Ma’at region, where scientists believe they could find the answer that will shed light on the comet’s interior structure.
More details about the search involving Philae will be released soon. Further, the team says that they will also produce more images of the mission.