Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Credit: DLR (CC-BY3.0)
On 13 June 2015 the Philae lander reported back, coming out of hibernation and sending the first data to Earth. Since then it has been in contact six times with the Lander Control Center of DLR (German Aerospace Center) in Cologne, Germany. Several hundreds of data packages have been analysed by the team at DLR. However, despite a new trajectory for ESA´s Rosetta spacecraft orbiting the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and a reduction of the distance between the orbiter and the comet´s surface from 200 to 180 kilometres, contact with the Philae lander remains irregular and short.
Several conditions must be met before Philae can communicate with Rosetta and its control room in Darmstadt, and then with the Lander Control Center. Firstly, Philae must be in operation, for which sufficient solar illumination of its solar panels is required to generate the necessary power. In addition, the antennas on the lander and the orbiter must be aligned, and the Rosetta orbiter needs to point its antenna as closely as possible towards the comet. The increasingly active comet ejects gas and dust particles into space, which already caused a problem in March when the star trackers on the orbiter were unable to determine the orientation of the orbiter. Currently, the trajectory of the orbiter is considered to be in a non-hazardous environment for comet outgassing.
Philae shut down on 15 November 2015, after being in operation on the comet for about 60 hours.
Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its Member States and NASA. The Philae lander is provided by a European consortium led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), also including the French Space Agency (CNES) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
With ESA, DLR, CNES, ASI and NASA all being members of the ISECG, the Rosetta mission is part of the ISECG Global Exploration Roadmap. It expands our knowledge about deep space, comets and eventually the formation of the solar system. Furthermore, the mission demonstrates technologies and enhances experience and knowledge that will significantly contribute to the development of capabilities for future robotic and human exploration missions.
More information about the Philae lander and the Rosetta mission can be found at: