Philae still talking!

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.

Deputy flight director Elsa Montagnon watching data flow from Philae on the surface of comet 67P/C-G Credit: ESA

Deputy flight director Elsa Montagnon watching data flow from Philae on the surface of comet 67P/C-G Credit: ESA

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.

Science data flowing to Earth from Philae 14 Nov 2014 Credit: ESA

Science data flowing to Earth from Philae 14 Nov 2014 Credit: ESA

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.




  • Andrew R Brown says:


    Please post up any new images and data 😀

    Andrew R Brown.

  • Robert Feiner says:

    So there will be no further attempts in turning the lander?
    What about the idea of using its legs to “hop” it into sunlight? Sure, it’s risky but it seems worth a shot.

    Good luck little friend 🙂

  • Ian says:

    Could ESA not get Risetta to change orbit and nudge the comet to give phil better sunlight
    Just a stupid idea but eh ho!!

    • Ken says:

      NO, because the comet has a mass of about 10,000,000,000 metric tonnes. So it couldn’t be nudged by a spacecraft weighing almost nothing.

  • Mike01 says:

    After an other one bites the dust, it’s now time on the Philae playlist for the show must go on ! Let’s roll out of the rocks… Go Philae & all the best !

  • Robin Sherman says:

    Brilliant news Daniel. Do we know if the instructions to turn Philae have been uploaded, or even something more risky to try and move her?

  • Buzz Lightyear says:

    Why not use Rosetta to reflect light down to Philae?

    • Carlo says:

      Unfortunately it is impossible. Rosetta’s Flight Director explains why in this interview released by Esa (should be at 46:54 in the video)

    • Fanas Fanidis says:

      Rosetta is too far away and can’t get close enough for s,omething like that.

    • Dr. V. Laxmanan says:

      Gr8 idea. I was thinking the same thing. Future mission. I hope this type of mission is repeated over other comets and asetroids.

  • Roger Keulen says:

    Congratulations !!!!

    Is this COSAC science data comming in ? That means SD2 is working ? That would be awesome !!

    Thanx Daniel for updating !

  • kukulaka says:

    Excellent news!

  • Homo stupidus says:

    Dear ESA Philae caretakers,

    I think the box did not jump because of a harpoon error, but Philae smelled the right place for getting the best samples 😉

  • If things are not going to be better/usable for next few days, you’ve got to give it a jump, even if it lands upside down there would be a good chance of booting up as it gets closer to sun – nothing to lose by jumping, loads to gain by trying.

    • Paul Bentley says:

      Landing site location has not been identified so “hop” to where ? No risks will be taken unless there is a clearly defined plan of action.

  • Bob S says:

    What is the best estimate of the comet mass? Based on orbits stated on the blog, it looks like 1.1 E 13 kg. How close can you safely orbit, and what is the limiting factor? Thanks!

  • Michal says:

    Why you don’t do the trick with the landing gear spring, i think it’s better gamble than waiting a few months to know if the sun conditions are good or not and then Philae KIA.

  • Flavio Galzignato says:

    Forza Philae! We’re waiting for good news from You 🙂

  • Chris Cuculo says:

    Despite the 10y old technologies, Rosetta and Phillea are doing their job very well. Congratulations to all scientists envolved. It has been absolutely magic all these accomplished.

  • Charlie griner says:

    so exciting!!

  • Lasse says:

    Thanks for the news, even though it is somewhat bad news.

    Does comet 67P not rotate? Almost any rotation would expose the lander to sunlight occasionally, unless the landing site is very unfortunate.

    Great mission and thanks for the coverage and updates. I love all the science of this project! No matter what the outcome, we will learn tremendously from both the failures and the successes. That’s what I love so much about science.

  • I guess you used the “bird in the hand” rule, gather as much data as you can now as a certainty rather than gamble – I guess you were right, it is my normal philosophy.

  • Spike Snell says:

    I was inspired by this whole event to make an ambient sleep aid out of the emissions from the comet:

  • Bill says:

    Messieurs, n’oubliez pas de saluer le travail d’Elsa Montagnon, qui seconde Andrea en tant que Directeur de Vol de la mission Rosetta à l’ESOC (la jolie brune à lunettes !) 😉

    And special congrats to Elsa Montagnon who seconds Andrea as Flight Director at ESOC on this Rosetta mission! (the brunette with glasses on the top picture)

  • Fraser P says:

    Take heart people. Philae and Rosetta are not on their own. The Clangers will keep them company

  • Mo says:

    Words fail me. A milestone reached. Keep going. Go. Go. Go.

  • John C. says:

    An amazing scientific achievement. Congratulations to everyone involved in this ambitious mission. I hope Philae has enough energy to perform all experiments and sends all of the data.

  • Torsten G says:

    Very exciting news, I feel and hope with you all. Deep respect for giving those nice briefings even though you know tons of work and decisions need to be done in background.
    Superb team! Nice coverage! Coolest project ever!
    Keep up the good work!

  • agung laksmono says:

    Amazing…Goodluck Philae, warm regards from Indonesia..:)

  • Stuart says:

    Great news, I spotted there was comms with rosetta on the nasa DSN page so pleased Philae is still there.

    If there is limited power avaliable, can non-essential and power hungry things not be switched off much as was done with the Voyager probes. Also, it must be getting some sunlight so program the thing into its lowest possible power state and tell it not to wake up until the battery charge has reached a certain level which can sustain useful functions. That may mean a sleep for a few days but if the option is a dead probe or a probe which sleeps alot then I choose the latter.

  • Carlos s says:

    Congratulations,amazing team,congratulations from Texas

  • Peter says:

    Sorry Stuart, in the video referenced above it is explained that the batteries need to be warmed to 0 Celsius to charge, and that warming requires 50W per day when the panels at present are delivering only a few W. So no chance until it is closer to the sun – maybe.

    In spite of which, what a mission. Go baby!

  • Dan Kurt says:

    The pictures sure look like rock not ICE or SNOW. What gives?

    • THOMAS says:

      @ Dan Kurt

      My bet is that if it looks like rock, it certainly IS rock, as I have been arguing for several weeks now on this blog. It’s high time to restore the natural sciences, based on true observation, to their proper place!

      With this in mind, I eagerly await rapid disclosure of the findings of the CONSERT radar instruments in particular, which managed to acquire data from the electromagnetic wave exchanges they set up between Philae and Rosetta through the nucleus of the comet during the 4-5 orbits that Rosetta made while Philae was still active and transmitting.

      According to mission scientists, that data has been fully acquired and safely transmitted back to Earth. I am confident it will show once and for all that the comet is made of solid rock from top to bottom, from front to back and from left to right (albeit with the internal fissures and cavities found in rock everywhere).

      I assume that this is one of the things that Matt Taylor, the ESA mission scientists, was referring to (along with the data on the immediate electromagnetic, plasma environment of the comet), when he said at yesterday’s briefing that “The data collected by Philae and Rosetta is set to make this mission a game-changer in cometary science”.

      From the perspective of the EU model, this was always not only expected but predicted.

    • Yeah, but the sun at even earth distance would toast the surface at 100-150C, driving off all the ice and frozen gas from the top meter or so. Who knows what’s underneath it, but it sure does look dry. The Kiev discoverer saw a comet tail, which has presumably been seen since, so it must have some gas. Maybe it has dried out by now. It only goes out to Jupiter’s orbit after all – who knows where it really came from.

  • Charles Haseltine says:

    Why didn’t the lander have “nuclear” battery power such as the Voyager 1 & 2 for longer duration?

    • You’re talking about the neat SNAP thermoelectric generators that just make endless power from the heat of degenerating plutonium (or other hot hot radionucleotides). Euro-paranoia over the tiny possibility of the plutonium inside being vaporized or spread around in an explosion on launch or accidental reentry. Plutonium is bad stuff, but reentry would probably dump it in the ocean, or vaporizing in the atmosphere would essentially be harmless. Think these things were designed to survive reentry, but you’re right- it’s tragic to cripple a $1.3 bil mission for lack of a $5 mil? battery.

  • Marcelo Malheiros says:

    WOW! The comments are almost as entertaining as the mission… keep the creativity flowing!!!

    • THOMAS says:

      The comments are often entertaining. The mission is totally enthralling.

  • John Delmos says:

    Thank you for sharing this science with the world.

  • Len says:

    This is exciting. I’m really interested in knowing the composition of the comet to see whether it really is a ‘dirty snowball’ or a mass that carries an electric charge (as proposed by the Electric Universe Theory).

    • THOMAS says:

      Len, we’ll have to wait for publication of the CONSERT data, which will prove conclusively that the comet is made of solid rock (“as proposed by the Electric Universe Theory”).

      Hope it’s not too long coming…!

  • mathias says:

    I had an idea for the next time we do something like this.. i can be wrong buit i was wandering if you could have installed an otherr batterie that only funcions to shoot ou a cabel that ankers itself on the correct spot en with the remaning energie you deploy at the same time solar pannels . when this is dont the next thing can be to pul down the instrument or machien because you can draw energie from the sun then. After this is dont just anker the machien and done. now i know its not that easy but its a tought. congratz btw with this achievement.

  • davet says:

    Thanks Peter for the explanation about why the batteries won’t gradually charge, I couldn’t understand why this wouldn’t happen and no explanation was made about it on the various news reports I had heard.

  • davet says:

    Can someone explain how the drill managed to work in the absence of any obvious way for a reaction force to be generated to stop the lander just lifting off of the surface instead?

    • THOMAS says:

      The drill operated. We don’t yet know whether it touched (and even less whether it penetrated) anything solid. We’re waiting for the science data to be communicated.

      Mission scientists took the decision to “drill” as a last resort. In any case, Philae was stuck sideways between a rock and a hard place. No risk of it “lifting off”.

  • Eric says:

    Congratulations and thank you! Amongst all the dark news out there, I was so happy to read about this amazing achievement!

    Eric, Brookfield, Wisconsin, USA

  • Stefan says:

    Isn’t there a piece of rope to be seen in the lower right part of one of the first pictures of the landing site (the one with most visible rocks) ?? What is the structure of the harpoon-wires ? Are they attached to ropes ? Could it be possible that the ropes were not completely retracted and a loop of the rope has caught a piece of rock and holds the lander in place ?

  • Wojtek Babisz says:

    Well done to all scientists involved! Keep up the good work! U go Philae!

    • THOMAS says:

      Well done the engineers involved, above all. They are the one’s who have been doing the extraordinary hands-on work that got Rosetta and Philae where they are. They are the ones who are making sure we have acquired the data which now waits to be deciphered.

      It remains to be seen what the theoretical scientists will make of it all.

  • Congratulations all. Do you have any idea why all 3 anchoring mechanisms failed, 4 if you count 2 harpoons? Or did the screws actually work- they must have if drilling didn’t launch it off surface again, eh? The thrusters and bolts to separate the lander, retro fire, and send it to the surface worked, so why wouldn’t the ground pushing thruster? Youza- with $1.3 bil 25 years invested in this quest, I do think it’s tragic that Europaranoia precluded using a radio-isotopic generator- they are solid, reliable, high power, long term sources. “As Kirk would tell you, Scotty, we NEED THAT POWER.” I’m still trying to find simple facts about mission- distance from sun, comet perihelion date + distance. And why can’t you tell where this thing is- can’t Rosetta measure emanation source somehow- antennas aren’t directional at all? Please clone your video’s elsewhere- for first 2 days they would only play about 20 seconds before stopping. Or include audio files or transcripts. You have the greatest story in the universe, right now! Good luck if you decide to jump and still can.

    I covered the Titan Lander Mission, still the most amazing space mission to the most incredible body in SS, but nobody’s ever heard of it, despite my best efforts. The high-res landing video is most incredible space movie I’ve ever seen. You guys need to spend a few more million in PR.- MH

    • THOMAS says:

      I didn’t “cover”(?) the Huygens Lander Mission on Titan, I merely followed it. I still vividly remember that first image from the surface, of those thousands of pebbles /boulders (some of them in close-up) littering that plain-like surface to the horizon.

      Due to totally different, absolutely incomparable, gravity parametres, the Huygens lander didn’t need thrusters, harpoons or ice screws, it needed a parachute.

      So what? What point are you making? Most of the people following this blog are much more interested in actual scientific achievement than in “PR” (= “Public Relations”).

      In any case, the Rosetta mission has captured the public’s imagination worldwide in a way that Huygens, despite its arguably comparable scientific merit, didn’t manage.

      This thing is a totally unpredictable, unknown comet nucleus which had never been studied before, not a well-known moon of a famous major planet!

  • John perkins says:


    From the clouds of cosmic gas
    Coalesced water, stone and ash
    Frozen fast was blown away
    To return another day

    Passing through the frozen space
    Five billion years of orbital grace
    Pulled by Sun through massive might
    Momentum slung back into night

    From a far flung place it soared
    Ten years and some it’s rockets roared
    No one heard it as it flew
    But for it’s tethered Earthbound crew

    Rosetta is the spaceship famed
    Greeter Philae it’s charge, is named
    Comet 67 p it’s destination
    People of Earth watch in fascination

    The probes arrive as predicted
    In some ways had been restricted
    Reached their goal of orbital dance
    Found gravity and seized the chance

    The stage was set for first contact
    Humankind and ancient comet
    Philae left the mother ship
    Thrusters firing for the trip
    All was well until the landing
    When it bounced instead of standing

    Up it went into the sky
    Round about a mile high
    Then back down to bounce again
    Into a shade dark nook to land

    For some time transmissions flowed
    Photographs and experiments drained it’s batteries though
    It needed light to continue about
    No Sun to drink it’s lights went out

    Rosetta though still will orbit and view
    The big rock of ice as it speeds to the Sun
    Heat will destroy it as passes our star
    The end of an effort most spectacular.

  • frank says:

    …and so? are you saying that we “burned” in a eyr glimpse how many millions? So is it philae lost for ever on the comet surface? Mon dieu!!

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