Philae’s first surface pic!

Here it is: the first picture taken from the surface of a comet’s nucleus:

You can see one of the lander’s legs in the foreground, but it’s a rather curious picture and it’s hard to tell what condition the lander is really in.  We know the top thruster was indeed non-operational, and we know that the harpoons did not fire, and we know that it bounced at least once upon landing.  What we don’t know is whether it is upright or whether it’s butted up against something or what.  There will be some very careful analysis of this image and more that are awaiting transmission to Earth.  If necessary, Philae is designed to be able to “hop” in order to relocate itself, but mission control needs to have a  better idea of its current condition and orientation before considering that option.  To that end, the Rosetta orbiter is imaging the landing site to try and work out where Philae is now:

Searching_for_Philae_node_full_image_2

The red cross-hairs indicate where they anticipate Philae to be, but they haven’t found it yet, and the surface picture doesn’t give much context.  Here’s the view from Philae’s down-looking camera at an altitude of 40 meters: the surface looks quite loose here, but not so much in the surface image.  Did it drift away from this area, or is it butted up against that boulder near the top of the image, or what?  We don’t know yet.

philae-40meters

Still, this is an incredible achievement, and ESA has every right to be proud of it.  Rosetta is still performing flawlessly in orbit, and though it’s unclear whether Philae will be able to use its full suite of instruments, it’s definitely survived the landing and that is a tremendous feat!

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