Comet robot lab Phi­lae wakes up af­ter 7-month sleep: agency

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Europe’s robot lab Phi­lae has made fol­low-up con­tact with Earth more than a day af­ter send­ing home its first mes­sage in nearly seven months since land­ing on a comet, its ground op­er­a­tors said Mon­day.

The lan­der re- es­tab­lished con­tact early Mon­day morn­ing GMT, and is now “com­pletely awake,” Jean-Yves Le Gall, pres­i­dent of the French CNES space agency told tele­vi­sion sta­tion France 2.

Af­ter a long hi­ber­na­tion with its bat­ter­ies run down, Phi­lae sent home its first mes­sage on Satur­day night af­ter a cru­cial so­lar recharge.

It landed on comet 67P/Churyu­movGerasi­menko on Nov. 12 af­ter an epic 10-year trek pig­gy­back­ing on its mother ship Rosetta.

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

It had enough stored bat­tery power for about 60 hours of ex­per­i­ments, en­abling it to send home reams of data be­fore go­ing into standby mode.

The hope was that bet­ter light as the comet ap­proaches the sun would recharge Phi­lae’s bat­ter­ies enough for it to re­boot, then make con­tact, and ul­ti­mately carry out a new se­ries of ex­per­i­ments.

The comet on which Phi­lae is perched is now 215 mil­lion kilo­me­ters (134 mil­lion miles) from the sun and 305 mil­lion kilo­me­ters from Earth, rac­ing at a speed of 31.24 kilo­me­ters a sec­ond.

It is ap­proach­ing per­i­he­lion, the clos­est point to the Sun in the comet’s or­bit, on Aug. 13, af­ter which “67P” will veer off again into the deeper reaches of space.

Le Gall said the comet was by now in full ac­tiv­ity, with “bursts of gas, bursts of dust, and thanks to Phi­lae, we can ob­serve it all first-hand.”

The mission seeks to un­lock the long-held se­crets of comets — pri­mor­dial clus­ters of ice and dust that sci­en­tists be­lieve may re­veal how the so­lar sys­tem was formed.

Phi­lae is equipped with 10 in­stru­ments to study the dust and va­por that blast from the comet as it gets ever closer to the sun.


This March 15, 2013 file photo shows Arch­bishop Jozef Wesolowski, pa­pal nun­cio for the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, in Santo Domingo, Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

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