Weekly Current Affairs

Farewell Philae: Earth severs link with silent comet probe [S&T]

  • Earth bid a fi nal farewell to robot lab Philae, severing communications after a year- long silence from the pioneering probe hurtling through space on a comet.
  • Writing an extraordinary chapter in space history, the washing machine-sized craft was the fi rst to land on a comet — primeval rubble from the formation of the Solar System.
  • Philae sent home reams of data garnered from sniffi ng, tasting and prodding its new alien home hundreds of millions of kilometres (miles) from Earth.
  • But after more than 12 months without news, it was decided to preserve all remaining energy available to Philae’s orbiting mothership Rosetta, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced in a blog entitled: “Farewell, silent Philae”.
  • Rosetta will remain in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for another two months.
  • It will crashland on September 30 to join Philae in their fi nal resting place, concluding an historic quest for cometary clues to the origins of life on Earth.
  • Part of a 1.3-billion-euro ($1.4-billion) ESA mission, Philae was launched into space in March 2004, riding piggyback on Rosetta.
  • The pair travelled some 6.5 billion km (four billion miles) — aided by gravity boosts from Earth and Mars — before entering 67P’s orbit in August 2014. Three months later, Rosetta sent the 100-kg probe down to the comet surface — starting a nail- biting deep-space saga.
  • The ESS is the Electrical Support System on board Rosetta, used to send home the results of Philae’s science experiments and status reports.