Philae lander awakens and is ready to drill the comet

(AGI) Frankfurt, June 14 - The Philae lander, theinter-planetary probe that landed on the nucleus of a cometlast November, unexpectedly woke up at a distance of 500million kilometres and could soon start drilling the comet withits "Made in Italy" drill. The Rosetta mission lander startedsending the first data from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko,reported the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian SpaceAgency (ASI). Philae had been dormant since November 14,when it went into hibernation after falling into a sort ofcrevice and stopped sending signals. During the night betweenSaturday and Sunday, it sent

(AGI) Frankfurt, June 14 - The Philae lander, theinter-planetary probe that landed on the nucleus of a cometlast November, unexpectedly woke up at a distance of 500million kilometres and could soon start drilling the comet withits "Made in Italy" drill. The Rosetta mission lander startedsending the first data from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko,reported the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian SpaceAgency (ASI). Philae had been dormant since November 14,when it went into hibernation after falling into a sort ofcrevice and stopped sending signals. During the night betweenSaturday and Sunday, it sent the first message to the Rosettaprobe 200 kilometres away, probably thanks to the comet'shigher temperature and the greater quantity of solar light. The awakening of the robot should also put back into operationthe SD2 instrument comprising both the Italian-made drill,designed by the Milan Polytechnic and manufactured by Selex Es(of the Finmeccanica Group), and the sample analysis 'lab'managed by the ASI together with the German Aerospace Centre(DLR) and the French Space Agency (CNES). There is still afour-month window in which it can perform explorations,precisely the period during which the comet will approach theSun, thus getting the ideal temperature and radiation forPhilae to work, even better than the conditions last November,when it was scheduled to begin operating. For the time being,the 23 Watt on-board power supply is four times the amountneeded to activate and receive data. Philae is the firstlander to have ever landed on a comet, in a mission that wascompared, for importance, to the lunar landing that began in2004, with a 6,000 million kilometre journey through the SolarSystem. It is the joy and pride of the European Space Agency,to which Italy contributes with two researchers who are projectmanagers, Paolo Ferri and Andrea Accomazzo. Its mission is tosend information on comets. "I'm not really surprised ithappened, but if you wait for several months and then suddenlyin the middle of the night you get a call saying 'we have asignal from Philae,' it's exciting," said Stephan Ulamec,project manager at the German Aerospace Centre in a pressrelease by ESA. (AGI) . .

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