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ESA finds Philae, Rosetta's lost lander on comet

"I’m very excited and thrilled that we finally have this all-important picture of Philae sitting in Abydos," said ESA scientist Laurence O’Rourke.

By Brooks Hays
ESA finds Philae, Rosetta's lost lander on comet
After searching for months, ESA's Rosetta probe has finally captured an image of the missing lander Philae. Photo by ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team

KATLENBURG-LINDAU, Germany, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- For the past year, it appeared Philae was lost and gone forever -- hidden from view and unable to communicate. Since the lander last made contact with Rosetta last summer, the European Space Agency probe has searched for its companion without success.

Last week, however, Rosetta finally captured imagery of the missing lander -- doing what it had failed to do during a half-dozen previous flybys.

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"With only a month left of the Rosetta mission, we are so happy to have finally imaged Philae, and to see it in such amazing detail," Cecilia Tubiana, an ESA scientist on the OSIRIS camera team, said in a news release.

Scientists with the ESA were able to narrow down the lander's position using its final moments of communication in July of 2015.

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"After months of work, with the focus and the evidence pointing more and more to this lander candidate, I'm very excited and thrilled that we finally have this all-important picture of Philae sitting in Abydos," explained ESA's Laurence O'Rourke.

Abydos is the name scientists gave a depression on the smaller lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where Philae was believed to be hiding.

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The lander initially touched down on a spot dubbed Agilkia, but the landing was not smooth. Philae bounced at least twice before settling into a deep crater where it was unable to use its solar panels to recharge.

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The Rosetta mission is scheduled to end in less than a month, meaning Philae's location was revealed just in time.

"This wonderful news means that we now have the missing 'ground-truth' information needed to put Philae's three days of science into proper context, now that we know where that ground actually is!" concluded Matt Taylor, ESA's Rosetta project scientist.

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