Postcards: The Astounding Philae Lander

Now found, the European Space Agency’s little Philae lander sits in plain view on Comet 67P, having sent its own amazing photos and having posed now for a series of action shots and now a still at its little place in space, where it will ride 67P around the Sun and back out into the Solar System’s reaches, to return again–provided 67P’s out-gassing doesn’t molest ESA’s robot probe too much.

Following is the best picture I’ve seen so far of Philae where it finally landed:

touchdown_with_shadow_bounce_philaeThis GIF file shows a before and after that has researcher’s pretty convinced they’ve spotted Philae as it sits in the cold comet environment. Hopefully higher definition pictures will follow, now that we’ve got the coordinates.

This next picture is the action shot, watching Philae soar over the surface, find the initial landing target, and then bounce away on its harry ride. The shape and legs of the lander are extraordinarily clear and distinct in these shots.

across the surface

 

And finally, there is Philae’s own photo from where it actually landed. This image showed that Philae was not in a comfortable position, with at least one leg in the air, and a shadow threatening to keep it from refreshing its solar-powered batteries.

philae_first_image_comet_surfaceThis historic image is already famous and its clarity is stunning. I believe our entire species, or at least those many millions of members that are paying attention, are proud of ESA and those that collaborated with in accomplishing this feat of dazzlingly precise engineering and exploration.

 

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