The European Space Agency has released the first picture taken by the Philae landing probe from the surface of a comet after determining that the craft had stabilized following a tension-filled landing.
The photo released Thursday shows a rocky surface with one of the lander’s three feet. Philae became the first spacecraft to land on a comet when it touched down Wednesday on the comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Harpoons meant to anchor the lander to the surface failed to work properly, causing Philae to bounce twice.
Scientists are still analyzing what effect the two bounces had on the spacecraft and plan to release further details at a news briefing at 8 a.m. EST.
Gerhard Schwehm, a scientist on the Rosetta mission, told The Associated Press on Thursday that it may still be possible to fire the harpoons but in any case the lander is “very healthy.” However, Lander project manager Stephan Ulamec told the BBC that he was wary of making another attempt to fire the harpoons on the grounds that Philae could be thrown back into space.
The BBC reported that ESA scientists are still trying to determine the craft’s precise location on the comet, while engineers say it may have bounced hundreds of feet off the surface on its first landing attempt.
A key question is whether Philae’s drill can be used to extract samples from beneath the surface without pushing the lander into space. Gravity on the comet is 1/100,000th that of Earth, meaning the washing machine-sized lander weighs just 0.04 ounces there.
Philae and Rosetta will use 21 instruments to analyze the comet over the coming months. Scientists hope the $1.62 billion will help them better understand comets and other celestial objects, as well as possibly answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.
Source : fox news