Philae Discovered Organic Molecules on the Comet Before Hibernating

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( — November 19, 2014)  — After a rough landing on the surface of acomet some 500 million kilometers from Earth, space probe Philae bounced on the surface twice and before landing in a large shadow, which blocked its solar panels from receiving the direct sunlight needed to recharge it’s batteries.  

Before going into hibernation to preserve the power needed in order to maneuver out of the shadow, Philae drilled the surface and analyzed the dust. Equipped with a variety of cutting-edge sensors, Philae can see, hear, ‘taste’ and sniff. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) confirmed in a statement that Philae, just before going into hibernation, was able to ‘sniff’ the atmosphere and “detect the organic molecules.”

For further evidence and analysis, scientists will have to wait until Philae wakes up.   

ESA scientists are still interpreting the data the probe sent back after a 57-hour mission

Before its primary battery died out, Philae was able to explore the comet using its 10 devices as the “mini laboratory sniffed the atmosphere, drilled, hammered and studied,” DLR said emphasizing that this data could only have been acquired through direct contact with the comet.

With the measurements performed by the Rosetta orbiter, scientists are on a way to achieving a greater understanding of comets, said Ekkehard Kührt, DLR’s director for the project.

So far, Philae confirmed that the surface is iced rock that’s heavy to drill and dig.

“The strength of the ice found under a layer of dust on the first landing site is surprisingly high,” says Klaus Seidensticker from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research.

Scientists now believe that the hard surface is to blame because couldn’t set an anchor on it’s first landing attempt. Instead, it bounced a few times, then settled beneath the shadows of a giant rock.    

At the first landing site, we would, of course, have had better solar illumination conditions,” says DLR Lander Project Manager Stephan Ulamec.

“I’m very confident that Philae will resume contact with us and that we will be able to operate the instruments again,” he concluded.