European space scientists are celebrating tonight after finding a comet lander they’d almost given up hope of ever seeing again.
Pictures have today emerged of Philae, the first space probe to land on a comet, wedged in a dark corner of the extraterrestrial object on September 2.
Communication links with the probe were lost shortly after it made history in November 2014, by touching down on the surface of Comet 67P.
euronews space correspondent Jeremy Wilks chats with Rosetta team members Pablo Muñoz and Armelle Hubaultand at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, on the finding of groundbreaking space probe Philae
The difficulty in making contact led space chiefs in July to opt to cut Philae’s communication systems, to help conserve power on its mothership, Rosetta.
It was cameras on Rosetta that managed to capture pictures of Philae on September 2, sparking joy from those involved in the European Space Agency (ESA) mission.
Paolo Ferri: “It's a great day for ESA today” Me (knowing nothing 'cos of embargo): “Why's that?”. Ferri: “We found Philae on the comet!”— Jeremy Wilks (@WilksJeremy) 5 de septiembre de 2016
“This remarkable discovery comes at the end of a long, painstaking search,” said Patrick Martin, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager. “We were beginning to think that Philae would remain lost forever. It is incredible we have captured this at the final hour.”
The picture of Philae in such an awkward position has given space scientists some explanation as to why communication was so difficult with the probe.
The mission to land the probe was designed so that a comet could be studied up close, in the hope it will provide vital clues about the original materials that went into building the solar system.
Spacecraft Rosetta will follow Philae in landing on the comet when the mission ends on September 30.
ESA says the final hours of descent will allow the spacecraft to make ‘many once-in-a-lifetime measurements, including very-high-resolution imaging, boosting Rosetta’s science return with precious close-up data achievable only through such a unique conclusion’.