A camera aboard the comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft captured snapshots of the Philae lander's adventurous journey on the comet's body, newly released images show.
The mothership Rosetta, which in August put itself into orbit around Comet 67P/ Churyumov–Gerasimenko, released Philae on Thursday for a seven-hour free fall to the comet for an independent science mission, the first to take place on a comet's rocky body.
A camera aboard Rosetta, which was orbiting less than 10 miles above the comet's surface, captured images of Philae's descent, unexpected bounce and slow eastward drift.
PHOTOS: Rosetta's Landing: When Philae Grabbed a Comet
"From left to right, the images show Philae descending toward and across the comet before touchdown," the European Space Agency wrote in a press release. "The image taken after touchdown, at 15:43 GMT, confirms that the lander was moving east ... and at a speed of about 0.5 m/s (1.6 feet per second)."
Philae's final resting spot is unknown, but it arrived at 17:32 GMT, the images show.
Rosetta remains on the hunt for Philae, which ended up in a ditch, said Gerhard Schwehm, the newly retired program manager told a NASA science advisory committee on Monday.
Stuck in shadow, the solar-powered probe shut down about 57 hours after touchdown, unable to recharge its battery.
"There's a hope that as the season changes and we get closer to the sun, we can perhaps charge the secondary battery better and at a certain time it will come up again. Rosetta will look for the lander ... so the story is not over," Schwehm said.
BLOG: Philae's Batteries Have Drained, Comet Lander Sleeps
It's possible that Philae may even be relaunched out of its ditch by warming gas jetting out from the the comet's body as 67P moves toward the sun.
"It could be a natural way that it gets lifted up," Schwehm said. "Right now, it's sitting nicely there ... safely waiting for power."
Details about what science the lander was able to accomplish during its initial set of automated experiments have not yet been released.