Turning Philae

Update from ESA’s Main Control Room: as mentioned in today’s ESAHangout, ground controllers are planning to issue a ‘turn command’ to Philae later this evening.

The aim will be to rotate Philae’s main body in the hopes of exposing one of the larger solar panels to the meagre sunlight that is falling on one of the smaller ones.

“The rotation of the lander’s body could result in more power if one of the larger solar panels can catch the illumination that is falling on the smaller,” says ESA’s Mark McCaughrean, senior science advisor.

“All things being equal, the same amount of sunlight falling on a larger panel should result in more power being generated.”

Animation showing Philae body turning

The command to make the turn will be uploaded sometime after Rosetta establishes contact with the lander, expected to happen any time now.

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.













  • rok says:

    So… what happened to the idea of hopping the lander out of the shade and onto greener pastures?

    • Andrew R Brown says:

      I am afraid, it did not work.


    • Cometstalker says:

      It might have worked but was not dared and a blind folded jump was not an option, it also takes som preparation to do a successful maneuver of this kind and this is yet possible to be done once the situation is 100% clear and the batteries are charged in the future. At perihelion things will be different and a lot of things can happen. Hopefully by then a lot of alternatives are planed for and tested in simulation environment, ready to download and execute.

  • scotty donaldson says:

    Just a thought: is it possible for Rosetta to reflect sunlight onto Philae’s solar panels? You know, maybe a shot of solar with each orbit?…

    But you big brains probably already thought of that.

    Great work. I’m hoping for the best, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s still a smashing success. Congratulations all!

    • Bill says:

      Nice thought Scotty, but no… it does not work as simple as that! 😉

    • Pete Lefis says:

      This idea was discussed during the Google Hangout session Friday afternoon. Yep, they answered NO 🙂

  • P. Montgomery says:

    The bounce in it’s self should give great numbers for gravity etc. Amazing . Wonderful. Cool as shit. Way to go ESA.

  • Andrew R Brown says:

    Just heard, this was successful. Both batteries appear to be in good shape too.

    Andrew R Brown.

  • Mike01 says:

    And what about spinning the fly wheel to roll out the area ?

  • Homo stupidus says:

    Ok. Last message was: Philae body rotation of 35 degrees was fine!

    Crossing fingers this helped a bit to get more sunlight on the main solar panel.

    Next time plan for a little wind plant to catch the solar wind ! 😉

  • Fuggasi says:

    Bravo!! What great work guys! This day is an epic historic moment for all explorers!

    • Cometstalker says:

      Yes, and bad news for the exploders as the harpoons did not fire as well as the thruster.

  • Ken Taylor says:

    I’m curious what % improvement in solar panel power gain would be needed from the hoped for rotation to reawaken Philae in the short term.

  • David Ridley says:

    Was an effort made to move the lander at all (beyond the rotation)? I heard that it was too risky – is that because there’s a chance it will come back online later in the orbit?

    What are the chances of illumination later in the orbit? If the lander is out of the shade in 6 months is there any reason it wouldnt be functional then?
    I guess we’ll know better once we actually know where the little fella is exactly!

    Great work everyone!

  • Cometstalker says:

    Everyone is saying in chorus great, super, and thanks for the enormous success. YES i do agree and you all deserve some flattering.
    Now and for some time ahead, what we need is some equally great and super presentation, as i have the feeling that the audience is just as Philae left alone with empty batteries.
    The lander team could do something creative as for now what are they supposed to do anyhow? Philae did land often enough, right?

  • Jane B says:

    Awesome, congratulations we are soo excited and glad the astronauts are safe and everybody involved for saving them. Awesome sand

  • Phil Hamden says:

    Do you have sufficient control over the “mother ship” to be able to manoeuvre it to reflect sunlight onto the solar panels on Philae? Or am I expecting too much at this distance.

  • Jeb says:

    Could the harpoons have fired and hit the hard layer and not penetrated?

  • Have been following the Philae/Rosetta operation now for quite a while (thanks for your regular updates!) and must say: that is every bit as breathtaking as these speleologists who get stuck in a cave and an international community tries to get them out again – only that it gets us more scientific results in the end.

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