The Philae Comet Lander Just Woke Up After Seven Months

"The lander is ready for operations."

Jun 14 2015, 2:23pm

Image: DLR/ESA

This morning, the European Space Agency announced some fantastic news—the Rosetta mission's Philae lander has finally woken up from its long dormancy on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

When Philae successfully landed on the comet last November, it was global news, and has since been widely regarded as the biggest science story of the year. But the triumph was somewhat marred by the fact that Philae experienced an unexpectedly bumpy descent that resulted in it settling down way off target, in a shady region of the comet. With limited sunlight to power it, Philae shut down after 60 hours of transmissions, and hasn't been heard from since.

Until, that is, this weekend. According to ESA, at 4:28 PM Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, June 13, Philae rebooted and reached out to its mothership, the Rosetta orbiter with an 85-second-long status update. ESA broke the news this morning, complete with the requisite adorable cartoon version of Philae being roused from its extended hibernation.

Fortunately, the lander appears to be hale and hearty despite its tumultuous descent and landing.

"Philae is doing very well: It has an operating temperature of -35ºC and has 24 Watts available," said Philae project manager Stephan Ulamec in a statement.

"The lander is ready for operations."

Indeed, it looks like the probe has already rebooted a few times before, but it hasn't had enough juice to message Rosetta until now. But as Comet 67P/C-G continues to hurtle headlong towards the Sun, Philae will be exposed to increasing solar radiation, and should have plenty of power to resume its up-close investigations of the comet's surface. The lander is outfitted with a host of sophisticated instruments designed to study this alien world's composition, history, and magnetic properties, among other things.

The reawakening of the Philae lander is just as exciting as the original landing, and adds a welcome new chapter to what has already been an inspiring and dramatic saga. As "Philae" itself tweeted, seven months is "a long time...time for me to get back to work!"