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Missing Philae comet lander found less than a month before mission's end

By Shawn Knight ยท 15 replies
Sep 5, 2016
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  1. Given the number of successful space-related missions conducted in recent memory (the Mars Rover, the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Juno probe currently orbiting Jupiter, for example), there’s inevitably bound to be some that don’t go according to plan. Such was the case with Philae, the robotic lander that served as the payload on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft launched in March 2004.

    After more than a decade in space, Rosetta reached its target, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Once in the comet’s orbit, the Philae lander separated from the spacecraft and landed on the comet with the intent of studying its composition. Unfortunately, that’s when things took a turn south.

    Although it came in at a speed of just 2.2 mph, the 220-pound lander bounced upon impact; its eventual landing spot was a mystery. A harpoon system was supposed to anchor the probe to the comet but failed to deploy. A thruster that was also supposed to assist in the landing did not fire, either.

    After a few days, the probe’s battery was depleted and with its solar panels not being able to do their job (masked by the shadow of a cliff), it went silent. Communications were reestablished in June and July of last year as the comet moved closer to the sun but it didn’t last.

    The Rosetta craft, meanwhile, continued to operate normally with plans to crash-land onto the comet on September 30 – less than a month away. Surprisingly, however, Rosetta’s Osiris narrow-angle camera recently passed close to the comet and captured a high-resolution image which revealed the exact location of the lost Philae lander.

    In addition to easing some emotions, knowing the lander’s location will help put the scientific data it was able to capture and relay before going dark into proper context.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 2,797   +1,536

    Ahhhhh ..... somebody finally got around to looking in the "lost & found" box at Walmart .... precious!
  3. Jack007

    Jack007 TS Booster Posts: 178   +38

    Why has peoples love for space project dwindle. I was expecting more comments but it seems that there is no interest in space anymore and to say the least space is still the final frontier for humanity on a whole. think of all the people being forced to travel to space when earth cannot sustain life anymore
  4. Timonius

    Timonius TS Evangelist Posts: 647   +58

    I still love space exploration and probably always will. I'm eager to see what is next. However there is a lot of controversy regarding all these space programs especially if it is backed by government money (not just NASA/US). I really don't want to engage the political arguments. It seems people are tiring of government corruption and waste. And in recent years it seems like private companies are on better track to reducing expenses involved, think Space X in their efforts to reduce payload cost (a MAJOR concern).

    And then there are trust issues. I often wonder why we see 'artist concepts' of so many space pictures. With modern computer graphics it is possible some photos are purely doctored and passed on to the public as real. We haven't even created a spacecraft that can travel far enough to take a picture of our Milky Way Galaxy, and yet we all probably have an image in our head of it based on an 'artists concept' which is based on our observance of other presumably similar galaxies. How about all those colourful Hubble photos? Often times colour is added to these pictures to emphasize and beautify what the naked eye can't or never will see (infrared,etc). Or the how about the imagination generated from so many lower resolution photos of the past? I get it, space artists play an important role to generate public interest.

    I would probably never have been interested at all if it weren't for the wow factor of Science Fiction movies and television drawing their inspiration from what's out there. Again, I am always cautious of what is real in what is reported as real especially when you throw billions of dollars at it.
  5. polord

    polord TS Rookie Posts: 19

    We are stil living in the "middle age" with space knowledge (and with other things).
    I wish I lived in a time when we are futher, like easy space travelling.

    (sorry for my english, I am dutch ;)
  6. Timonius, all these "artist concept" pictures are there because if people truly saw what space looks like, it would turn them off for good.
    Space is a lonely, black & white (mostly black...really really pitch black) place were everything you look at is ugly. On the other had, when you look at earth from an earth-moon lagrange point - that's one of the only beauties in the vast emptiness of space.
    Timonius likes this.
  7. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 411   +256

    Oh well, the last time I got excited about space exploration was about the shoemaker-levy 9 comet. I hope they could find more interesting objects that could tickle again people's minds.
  8. SBKenn

    SBKenn TS Rookie

    How unlucky can you get. A bounce into a dark corner ! Still, at least they now know what happened.
  9. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 653   +286

    To be fair to the space artists:
    They are following a kind of 'paint by numbers' with their works. Take a nebula for example. They know the gas compositions and distributions in the photos taken, and they know what colors those gases present as during spectroscopy. Using that, they are able to fill in what 'colors' the nebula is.
    Was it those colors in the photo? No.
    Would it be those colors if you could achieve a perfect 'Star Trek' perspective (which you can't, because of scale): Again, no.
    But the colors aren't a lie either. They just aren't something human can see without a visual aid.
  10. Trillionsin

    Trillionsin TS Evangelist Posts: 1,549   +235

    Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man. The vastness of space is its beauty. lol
    mailpup likes this.
  11. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,515   +2,312

    As long as you're not in it, while being out of fuel, and out of air.
    Trillionsin likes this.
  12. Jack007

    Jack007 TS Booster Posts: 178   +38

    To say the honest truth the photos from hubble telescopes are so huge a normal pc would crash displaying them. Can you imagine the data that a 10gigapixel or up would contain. even the memory requirements to open the file.
  13. Trillionsin

    Trillionsin TS Evangelist Posts: 1,549   +235

    IDK You view it in sections? Check the link for interest http://www.in2white.com/# This is apparently in the Guinness Book of world records for being the largest picture and you can view it all right from your PC.
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,515   +2,312

    I guess lost comet mapping probes follow the same rules as terrestrial items, "you always find something in the last place you looked for it"... ;) *nerd*
  15. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 653   +286

    That is a compressed image, not a RAW file. I have a pretty hefty computer (not super computer, but more than most). i7 with 16GB RAM. I just last week was processing a panorama photo comprised of 16 individual 24MP pictures, and Photoshop CC kept running out of memory and crashing. I had to close down literally every other program open to finish stitching it together and processing it - and I had to trim it down a little less than half of its potential size. But after I finished processing, and saved it as JPG, it was "only" around 30MB in size.

    I don't even want to imagine the memory involved in processing a 10GP photo. I have to imagine that NASA just uses SSDs as a kind of cache, with north of 128GB of RAM.
  16. Trillionsin

    Trillionsin TS Evangelist Posts: 1,549   +235

    Yea. I understand that it's compressed. ...but you can view them easily. It's not like your monitor can actually show you a picture like that if it wasnt compressed, even if you PC could handle it. You know what I'm saying? That's why I just made the comments that you view it in "sections." Your PC wont crash displaying it, because viewing an image like that being compressed is assumed. Editing however, as you mentioned, would be entirely different. I'm taking your words for the facts though, I do not do any major photo editing. The thing about that site is that it's compressed in a way which allows you to zoom in and view a section at a higher definition, so everything can be handled easier in smaller chunks. I think I was focusing on the aspect that you said a "normal pc would crash displaying them." There's really no sense in displaying an image like that in its full resolution on a monitor than can never actually show you the true quality of the picture. I hope I'm making some sense here. lol

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