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The ESA lander is phoning home, now watch a GIF of it landing on the comet

The ESA lander is phoning home, now watch a GIF of it landing on the comet

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The European Space Agency has just announced in a series of tweets that it has regained contact with the Philae lander and is receiving data from the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The lander's chaotic touchdown had left it partially shrouded in darkness and receiving less solar energy than the mission called for, and before contact was reestablished there was some doubt that Philae had enough battery to last until data could be retrieved.

Just before the announcement, the agency released images of the Philae lander's impact with comet. Though the future of the mission is still in jeopardy thanks to the dangerous position where the lander came to rest, the images offer visual confirmation of what the lander's telemetry data already hinted at: Philae's original impact was on target.

Philae lander impact

The images were taken by the Rosetta spacecraft's navigation camera before and after the impact occurred, and the boulder seen in this image transmitted by Philae before it impacted the crater is visible in the GIF just to the side of the landing site. The dark spot circled in red in the second image released by the ESA highlights what the agency believes to be dust scattered from the impact, and in the final image the area highlighted in green represents the computed touchdown point. By the ESA's estimate, the lander touched down about 10 meters from the intended target.

As was detailed in a briefing this morning, ESA scientists activated the lander's drill but are waiting to find out if it was able to extend far enough to collect any samples from the comet, which would salvage some of the scientific benefits of the agency's mission. More information on what data the ESA has collected and the future of the mission is expected this evening.