Rosetta has regained contact with Philae sitting on the surface of a comet (511 million km away!) during tonight’s communication pass, confirming that the lander still has power on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The pass began at 22:29 GMT / 23:29 CET, which was within the window of expectation.
Against the odds – with no downward thruster and with the automated harpoon system having not worked – the intrepid Philae lander touched down a total of three times on the comet before coming to a final resting place on Wednesday.
While the search for the final landing site is still on-going, the lander is racing against the clock to meet as many of the core science goals as possible before the primary battery is exhausted. Under the low illumination conditions at Philae’s location, it is unlikely that the secondary batteries will charge up enough to enable extended surface operations.
All of the science instruments were deployed, including the instruments that required mechanical movement, such as APXS, MUPUS, and the drill, SD2, which is designed to deliver samples to the PTOLEMY and COSAC instruments inside the lander.
The lander team will now be examining the data to confirm if all the experiments were completed.
Philae’s planned mission is expected to come to an end when batteries are exhausted sometime on Saturday; future contacts are possible if the illumination conditions change as the comet orbits closer to the Sun, enabling solar power to flow again.
The Rosetta orbiter mission continues as planned, with an immense amount of science observations still to come.