New information from the European Space Agency shows how what yesterday we thought was just a hitch, came close to a fully fledged disaster for the comet-lander Philae.
The little craft, the size of a washing machine, finally came to rest on its side lodged against a cliff face on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after its anchoring harpoons failed to fire, and the probe bounced back off into space.
While it is secure for now, the cliff is blocking sunlight needed to recharge the probe’s batteries. Scientists are now faced with the difficult decision of whether to try to nudge the craft into a better position and risk it flying off into space, or making do with its current position.
Drilling could also be a risk for Philae as it is untethered.
Originally published by Cosmos as How we nearly lost comet-lander Philae
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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