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UPDATE: The fight to save the comet spacecraft lander

UPDATE: The fight to save the comet spacecraft lander

UPDATE 11/17/2014:

The Rosetta's landing craft, Philae, has shown us incredible photos, actually transmitted from the surface of a comet for the first time in history.

Unfortunately, after landing on a near-perfect spot on the comet, the little Philae bounced back above the comet before finally coming to rest in the shadow of a nearby cliff.  Now out of reach of sunlight, it is unable to charge its batteries.

And so, after a hasty transmission of gathered data, Philae drifted to sleep as it powered down. But just before it went to sleep, Philae's controllers moved the little lander so that if sunlight does reach it, it can catch the most sunlight possible to recharge and power back up.

The tricky thing is that Philae only gets about an hour and a half of sunlight every day on the comet. The fact that it's backed up against a cliff face and in deep shadow isn't helping with the battery situation.

The good news is that scientists are hopeful that if it does manage to charge up enough, Philae will continue to photograph and scan its new home. It is also very possible that Philae will charge up enough to phone home and send even more data back through sister ship Rosetta.

Rosetta is scheduled to maintain course and speed to study the comet through 2015. For now, though, there's no hope of a rescue. Philae is on her own.


"Space: The final frontier." These are the famous words accompanying the "Star Trek" original series opening credits, but they're more than just an intro to a sci-fi show.

Space is fascinating, and people have been working for centuries to unravel its secrets. Now just today, another leap forward was made in science and innovation as the 10-year-old Rosetta spacecraft successfully launched and landed a probe on a comet.

Seriously, this is a huge achievement. This project was launched 10 years ago, and has been chasing the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, nicknamed 67P, ever since.

In fact, the Rosetta spacecraft has used the gravity of Earth and Mars to slingshot itself through inner space to gather enough speed to even catch up to 67P. It has shot around Earth three times and Mars once since its launch in 2004.

And speaking of "Star Trek," who says that celebrities and science don't mix? William Shatner, also known as Captain Kirk from the "Star Trek" original series, has been keeping track of the Rosetta mission since the beginning, and sent a special message to the Rosetta Team.

The famous Captain Kirk was looking forward to this scientific marvel himself. He tweeted this video, saying: "My message to @ESA_Rosetta and its away team! youtu.be/yY2SGPtRmnA"

And when the washing-machine sized probe from Rosetta, named Philae, finally touched down, the crew responded to their captain with the good news.

@ESA_Rosetta reported: "@WilliamShatner touchdown confirmed for away team @philae2014, captain!"

Want to learn more about this amazing scientific feat? This infographic from the National Post has more about the journey from Earth to a comet.


Philae's landing on the comet didn't go quite as smoothly as ESA scientists would have hoped. The probe had harpoons that were supposed to shoot out to attach it to the comet.

But, the harpoons failed to fire, so Philae isn't securely fixed in place. The comet has very weak gravity, so there isn't much keeping it in place. Scientists believe the probe may have bounced when it landed before settling down.

But, we still have some amazing photos of the comet. ESA has released some of the photos from the spacecraft, so you can see what a comet in space really looks like.


This is an image of the surface of the comet.


The red markers shows where ESA scientists think Rosetta landed. The photo was taken about two months ago.


This is another image of the comet. You can see one of the lander's three feet.

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