Ground control teams overseeing Europe's Philae comet lander begin the week with some good news: The intrepid robot is back talking to the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft.
After a seven-month hibernation, Philae which landed in an unintended, shadowed area on the surface of a comet in November, revived and radioed signals on June 13 and 14, bolstering scientists' hopes that a new round of experiments could begin. Another blackout followed, though mission managers say this wasn't unexpected, as Rosetta was busy with its own pre-programmed science operations.
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On Friday, right on schedule, Philae made another pair of two-minute radio transmissions.
"Among other things, we have received updated status information," Michael Maibaum, deputy operations manager at the German space agency's Lander Control Center in Cologne, said in a statement.
"At present, the lander is operating at a temperature of zero degrees Celsius, which means that the battery is now warm enough to store energy. This means that Philae will also be able to work during the comet's night, regardless of solar illumination," he said.
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Analysis of Philae's previous transmissions show that the amount of sunlight reaching the lander's solar panels has increased.
"Philae is doing very well," Maibaum said.
The first transmissions also showed that Philae was operational back in May, but unable to make radio contact.
Rosetta's orbit is being adjusted so that it can have longer, more stable and more predictable radio contract with Philae. Once that is achieved, the lander will be put back to work.
Philae rode along with the Rosetta spacecraft to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko then separated for an independent mission. Its landing system failed and the 220-pound spacecraft bounced twice before coming to a rest against a cliff wall. It ran through a preprogrammed 64-hour series of science experiments before its batteries died.
Since then, Comet 67P has traveled much closer to the sun, reviving the lander.