‘Hello Earth’: Comet probe Phi­lae wakes up, sends tweet

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Euro­pean space probe Phi­lae woke up overnight af­ter a months-long sleep as it hur­tled to­ward the sun on the back of a comet, the French space chief said Sun­day.

“We re­ceived new sig­nals from (Phi­lae) for a pe­riod of two min­utes, as well as 40 sec­onds’ worth of data,” Jean-Yves Le Gall, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Space Stud­ies (CNES), told AFP.

“Hello Earth! Can you hear me?” the tiny robot lab tweeted un­der the hash­tag #WakeUpPhi­lae.

Europe launched a new bid in May to com­mu­ni­cate with Phi­lae via its moth­er­ship Rosetta, which is in or­bit around Comet 67P/ Churyu­mov-Gerasi­menko.

Their ex­plo­ration aims at un­veil­ing se­crets of comets — pris­tine bod­ies of ice and dust that are be­lieved to ex­plain how the so­lar sys­tem was formed.

The 100- kilo­gram robot lab touched down on “67P” on Nov. 12 af­ter a 10-year trek pig­gy­back­ing on Rosetta.

But in­stead of har­poon­ing it­self onto the dusty ice­ball’s sur­face, Phi­lae bounced sev­eral times be­fore set­tling at an an­gle in a dark ditch.

The lit­tle lan­der had enough stored bat­tery power for around 60 hours of ex­per­i­ments, and sent home reams of data be­fore go­ing into standby mode on Nov. 15.

As “67P” drew closer to the sun, sci­en­tists hoped bet­ter light would recharge Phi­lae’s bat­ter­ies enough for it to re­boot, then make con­tact, and ul­ti­mately carry out a new se­ries of ex­per­i­ments.

“Phi­lae has wo­ken up at 13 June 2228 Cen­tral Euro­pean Time,” the Euro­pean Space Agency (ESA) spokesman Pal Hvis­ten­dahl told AFP.

Comet 67 is cur­rently 215 mil­lion kilo­me­ters from the sun and 305 mil­lion kilo­me­ters from Earth, rac­ing at 31.24 kilo­me­ters a sec­ond, ac­cord­ing to ESA’s web­site.

Rosetta and Phi­lae have trav­eled an ac­cu­mu­lated dis­tance of 6.9 bil­lion kilo­me­ters, it said.

By Aug. 13 the comet will reach its clos­est point to the sun, or per­i­he­lion, be­fore veer­ing off again into the deeper reaches of space.

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