BOING, BOING! Philae BOUNCED TWICE on Comet 67P
Lander now screwed down good and tight ... we hope
It almost sounds like a cartoon from the 1950s: The Philae lander, which on 12 November had a successful rendezvous with Comet 67P after being released by the Rosetta spacecraft, bounced not once but twice, before finally settling on the surface of the space-rock.
As reported quite soon after the landing, the boffins in charge of the mission realised that Philae failed to fire the harpoons that were intended to anchor it onto 67P.
Without the harpoons, the lander is probably anchored by the ice-screw legs that were designed to drill into the surface. The European Space Agency boffins speculated that the lander would have bounced, as The Register noted here.
Dr Stephan Ulemac of German space agency DLR told the final 12 November briefing that fluctuations in the radio link and data from the solar cells suggested “maybe we landed today not once but twice”.
There remained one more surprise for the day, with the Twitter account associated with Philae's ROMAP (ROsetta lander MAgnetometer and Plasma monitor) saying the lander bounded a second time:
@Philae_ROMAP magnetic field analysis revealed 3 landings at 15:33, 17:26 and 17:33 UTC— Philae_ROMAP (@Philae_ROMAP) November 12, 2014
After the first, two-hour bounce, there was a second four-minute bounce – which to El Reg makes it all the more remarkable that the lander is now stable on the comet and sending data. ®
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