Philae Lander probe may give glimpse of solar system’s origins – Rosetta scientist

A scale model of the Rosetta spacecraft is pictured at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt.(Reuters / Ralph Orlowski )
The Philae Lander has woken up after seven months of hibernation on comet 67p. The probe is now ready to start doing some science and may hint how the earth was formed, Matt Taylor, a project scientist from ESA’s Rosetta mission, told RT.

RT:Was there concern that Philae would never be heard from again?

Matt Taylor: I think I heard some people were concerned, but I personally was quite confident that we’d get Philae back. It was designed to do this, it’s just been hibernating for longer than we’d originally designed it.

RT:Certainly what happened today was something that we’ve been waiting for a long time, so did Philae send any important information during today’s contact?

MT: Yes, it’s designed to do this. It’s designed to hibernate and come out of hibernation when it feels ready from a temperature point of view and from the light it’s getting from the Sun. Its computers indicate what its onboard temperatures are, how much data its taking.

In fact it seems to have been awake for longer than we actually expected it. So, we’re waiting now for the next contact, so we can get even more information, because at the moment we’re not doing science with it, we’re just in the last wake up phase. We’re trying to see the condition of the space craft, how it’s going and then we’ll be able to re-command it to do some science.

RT:You say you’re waiting for the next contact, but how long will it take until you hear from it again?

MT: We’re actually listening for it. We’ve been listening for it again this morning; we’re listening for it again this evening. I’ve been to a number of meetings today, talking to the lander operators to try and configure out the orbiter space craft to put it in the best situation to enable us to hear the spacecraft. It’s important to realize that Rosetta has been doing all this science over the last few months and is about 200 kilometers away from the comet. So we need to make sure we’re in the right place at the right time to get the best situation, the best scenario for this communication to occur.

RT:In addition to what you’ve already heard from, what do you eventually hope to learn from this mission?

MT: We’ve already learned a lot about the comet. We know more about it than any other comet we’ve ever been to. But the key thing is these comets are windows into the past, they are the leftovers from the beginning of the solar system. So by studying them we get an idea of how the solar system formed, where it formed from and ultimately how we got to where we are today. It links to us directly. These things are full of water, full of material that was the building blocks of the entire solar system. We came from these bodies and its basically looking back at where we came from.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.