Night night, Philae….

The Philae lander had a successful landing — but the surface was harder than expected, and it bounced so high that it didn’t touch down again for two more hours. Briefly, Rosetta caught a view of the dust kicked up in that first impact, and the lander itself, mid-bounce:

Touchdown_w_shadow

The final resting spot of Philae has not been found, but it’s probably not possible for Rosetta to spot it, as the lander’s photographs and the meager voltage recorded off of the solar cells indicate it’s mostly in shadow:

ESA_Rosetta_Philae_CIVA_FirstPanoramic_woLander

On Friday, against expectation, Philae contacted the Rosetta orbiter.  It downlinked the last of the science data from its first observation session, and flight controllers instructed it to turn in place in an attempt to shift into better sunlight.  Almost immediately, power levels plunged and contact was lost, although they do not know whether signal was lost because it ran completely out of juice or because Rosetta moved out of range.

They have not heard from Philae since Friday, so they are assuming that it has gone comatose.  It may eventually charge up enough to make contact again, assuming it doesn’t get too cold, but the likelihood is that Philae’s mission has ended.  It was an amazing spacecraft that did something nobody has ever done before, and although it was not a flawless mission, it did a superb job in what proved to be immensely challenging circumstances.

Good night, Philae!

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