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France - Outer Space

French space agency 'live with Philae' on Comet Chury

Philae lands safely on the comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko, 12 November 2014.
Philae lands safely on the comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko, 12 November 2014. Reuters/ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

France's national space agency is now monitoring the robot Philae, which has made the first-ever landing on a comet after a 10-year journey and communicating with Earth from 510 million kilometres away.

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"The radio link works, we are live with Philae," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, the head of the French government-run space agency CNES on Europe 1 radio on Thursday.

The robot landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, now popularly known as "Chury", on Wednesday.

There are "three points of good news", said Le Gall from ground control in Toulouse:

  • Philae landed safely and spent its first night on Chury;
  • Philae is receiving power through its solar panels, which have opened properly;
  • The CNES has permanent contact with Philae, which has already sent plenty of data to its mothership Rosetta which relays it to Earth.

"We are doing a kind of check-up on Philae," said Le Gall, adding that despite "concerns about anchoring, the most important thing is that Philae has landed without losing its connections".

After a seven-hour descent from Rosetta, Philae failed to anchor properly on Chury.

Some signals suggest that it could have landed on a soft sandy surface or bounced, preventing its harpoons from attaching it properly to the surface.

Philae weighs 100-kilos on Earth but only one gramme on the low-gravity comet.

Robot Philae headed for the comet after a 10-year trip and a 6.5_billion-kilometre journey  inside Rosetta.

The 1.3-billion-euro European mission is meant to drill into the surface of the comet and analyse samples - carbon molecules and water.

Philae's trip to comet "Chury"

Work on Rosetta has involved about 2,000 scientists and engineers, state-owned laboratories and 50 companies in 14 countries, among them the Flight Operations Control Centre (ESA) in Darmstadt, Germany, and the French Space Agency CNES in Toulouse, from where Philae is controlled and its data collected.

Scientists hope to shed light on how our solar system and life on Earth were created.

For now Philae has about 60 hours-worth of battery left but it will be able to continue its work until March 2015 through power from its solar panels. 

Meanwhile, Rosetta will continue to go around the comet and scan the results of the 10 instruments on board Philae, relaying the information gathered to Earth.

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