7 Questions and Answers about Rosetta Philae
|Rosetta Philae on the comet - artist's rendition|
If the Philae landing on the comet robot is already considered a technical success by the European Space Agency, its current position made it difficult to start any drilling while its batteries would soon after be out of power.
Wednesday's landing was seen as a victory for scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA), but its current position could be fatal to the world's most famous space robot. A vertical and standing on two of its three feet, Philae "works well" but its position in a little sunny area, caused it problems to recharge its batteries.
1. Where should the robot Philae have landed?
The researchers predicted that Rosetta mission Philae would land on the Agilkia site, an area near the top of the smaller of the two lobes of the comet. The site selection was made based on its topography and its mapping.
"The situation is not optimal"
2. Where is Philae now?
Due to the very low gravity of the comet around 100,000 times lower than on land, it was necessary to provide harpoons for the robot not to bounce.
Unfortunately, the trigger system did not work and Philae, weighing a hundred pounds, bounced three times. The first bounce of more than a kilometer lasted almost two hours. Still, the ESA does not seem to pinpoint its exact location.
"The rally lasted almost two hours"3. did the robot do its work despite the chaotic landing?
Yes. Philae is equipped with 10 tools that were tested. Among them, cameras from which images were provided to the press and world by the space agency. Another tool to collect samples of the comet is also running.
4. Could Philae accomplish all its tasks if it was not properly grounded?
One of the priority tasks of Philae is boring and it is impossible to undertake anything of that nature without ground anchors. Nevertheless, during landing, the robot was able to sink 4 cm, suggesting that the screws on the feet fulfilled their role.
5. How long was the battery life?
That scientists feared what might happen. They were afraid that the robot would be attached to a rock wall that would shade the solar panels mounted on the robot. However, Philae is almost vertically on a sloping 30% slope and solar panels can be found in the shade. Batteries allow it to be on for 50-55 hours. Despite the chaotic landing, the antennas are facing the sky which facilitates communication.
6. Do we know what kind of data was already collected by Philae?
The National Space Research Centre refuses to give any information whatsoever but indicates that much data has been collected. "Our priority is to continue to make scientific analyses without moving anything," said Philippe Gaudon, the Rosetta mission boss.
7. Is the purpose of Philae to bring back samples of the comet on Earth?
No, it would be far too expensive. Besides, scientists from the Rosetta mission would not even consider its return to Earth. Philippe Lamy, astrophysicist mission said that eventually it could be ejected from the comet. Anyway, it can not remain indefinitely because comets are gradually eroded.