BERLIN, November 12. /TASS/. The European Space Agency (ESA) has started to receive telemetric data from the Philae space module that separated from the Rosetta satellite. The operation is conducted in the normal mode, Andrea Accomazzo, Rosetta flight director at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, said on Wednesday.
He said the lander was transmitting telemetric data. A stable communication channel has been established for monitoring the landing manoeuvre.
“Philae has gone - it’s on its path down to the comet,” Accomazzo said. “We are all glad that it worked flawlessly in the past minutes.”
According to Accomazzo, ESA in about 5 hours expected to receive the signal on the Philae touchdown on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the first images.
Philae separated from the Rosetta space probe and started descent to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko earlier Wednesday. ESOC received the spacecraft’s confirming signal at 10:03 am (12:03 pm, Moscow time).
The separation was scheduled for 09:35 am, Central European Time (11:35 am, Moscow time). As the spacecraft are at a distance of more than 500 million kilometres from the Earth, the signal on the beginning of the Philae descent came to the ground control centre only half an hour after the manoeuvre started. The landing operation will take nearly 7 hours: the lander is to make the touchdown on the surface of the celestial body at 17:02 pm (19:02 pm, Moscow time).
According to ESA, “Rosetta launched in 2004 and arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014. It is the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a lander to its surface. Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.”
Several ESA centres in Europe at a time are monitoring the Philae landing operation.
The Philae research module has a drill for taking samples and a dozen of various automatic research systems - spectrometers, photo cameras and particle analysers, which will allow it, in particular, to look into the comet’s nucleus. This is particularly important, as usually the particles of comet nuclei that get into the comet’s tail are quickly destroyed in the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
It took the Rosetta spacecraft more than 10 years of flight to approach the researched object. Over this period the space probe has covered more than 6.4 billion kilometres. The Philae module will have 4 - 6 months of operation on the comet nucleus surface.
Rosetta’s prime objective is to help understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System. The comet’s composition reflects the composition of the pre-solar nebula out of which the Sun and the planets of the Solar System formed, more than 4.6 billion years ago. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta and its lander will provide essential information to understand how the Solar System formed.