Philae Comet Lander Re-Establishes Contact With Earth

Philae Comet Lander Re-Establishes Contact With Earth (ABC News)

The Philae comet lander has phoned home for the first time following a seven month hibernation on the comet 67-P, sending valuable data back to scientists on Earth.

The solar powered lander lost contact with Earth on November 15 -- 60 hours after it landed on the speeding comet, bounced and came to a final resting place in a shady area lacking the necessary sunlight to keep the lander alive.

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The European Space Agency had anticipated a day when Philae would have enough power to wake up and communicate with Earth. A communication unit on Rosetta, the spacecraft orbiting the comet, was turned on in March to listen for signs of life from the lander.

Three months later, the first action from Philae, which is about the size of a washing machine, came as an 85-second transmission sent to Earth.

"Philae is doing very well. ... The lander is ready for operations" Stephen Ulamec, the Philae project manager for the European Space Agency said in a statement.

Some of the status data sent back to Earth indicated Philae may have been awake earlier, he said.

While scientists have the initial data sent by Philae over the weekend, they're now awaiting the lander's next contact with Earth.

The lander has more than 8,000 data packets in its memory, according to the European Space Agency. That information is expected to hold insights into what life has been like for the lander over the past few days.

While Philae slept, the Rosetta probe has continued to orbit the 2.5-mile wide comet, collecting data and making observations to send back to the team on Earth as the comet speeds closer to the sun.

Philae made history on November 12 when it landed on the speeding comet, marking the culmination of a 10-year, 4 billion-mile journey to the comet.

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