Added by Erik West on November 13, 2014
At a news conference today, ESA scientists and engineers confirmed that the Phile lander, released by the Rosetta satellite on a decade-long mission to study a comet, bounced when it reached the surface. The lander, said the ESA team, is not damaged and is communicating; however, only some of the solar panels are collecting sunlight thereby limiting the amount of energy available to conduct experiments.
Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager said, “the degree of failure in this landing is not impressive – it is our success so far. It does not matter that we are here or there – it is amazing that we are there now. We are at the limits of what human kind can do and it is gorgeous where we are”.
According to ESA engineers, they are currently evaluating why the lander bounced, how many times it bounced, and trying to determine the lander’s orientation. They say there’s a possibility that the lander could have one of its three landing legs not on the surface of the comet.
When asked about conducting experiments involving extension of any instruments o the lander, Ulamec said, “We do not want judge results we see so far and be careful before doing any mechanical activation”.
Ulamec added , “Drilling without being anchored could cause us to tip over lander. We do not want to do a second attempt at firing harpoons before we know situation. If not perfectly anchored, we would put momentum on lander which could push us away from surface so we won’t do any no activations [of mechanical experiments] in next hours”.
The ESA science team continues to work with engineers to determine the order in which to perform experiments.
We want to balance risk and goals and will do experiments in priority from less risk to more risky. Drilling is core experiment but we also want to get samples by all means. We have good variety of instruments, said Ulamec.
The ESA team said that the next 35 hours will provide a lot of information and is the window in which they intend to perform experiments and collect more data.