Philae lander is in free fall toward comet 67P

DARMSTADT, GERMANY — Philae is on its way to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Mission scientists confirmed that the Rosetta spacecraft has nudged the lander off its back toward the surface of the comet. The lander separated from Philae at around 9:35 a.m. Central European time and is slated to touchdown on 67P in roughly seven hours. The landing should be confirmed between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Central European Time/11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Eastern Standard time.

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Updated, November 12 at 12:10 p.m. CET/6:10 a.m. EST: The Philae lander is alive and well. It has checked in with the Rosetta orbiter on its way to the surface of comet 67P and the team can now follow its path toward the comet. Mission scientists are still a bit worried about a bouncy landing because of an issue with the lander’s thruster. The thruster did not activate properly earlier this morning, so the lander may have to rely only on its foot screws and harpoons to secure itself to the comet.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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