Philae passes first go-no-go tests for comet landing

Rosetta and Philae at comet 67P, illustration

Through the night of November 11 and into the morning of November 12, Rosetta and Philae will go through critical go-no-go tests in preparation for landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

ESA/ATG medialab; comet image: Navcam/Rosetta/ESA

DARMSTADT, GERMANY — Philae has gotten a go in the first of a series of go-no-go tests in the run up to the November 12 comet landing event.

The scientists confirmed that Rosetta, the spacecraft carrying Philae, is ready to move to the exact point in space at the exact time to nail the lander’s touchdown onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Mission scientists also confirmed November 11 that Philae is operating correctly. There was a glitch on November 10 when the lander was first turned on, but the problem has been solved, the team says.

The next major go-no-go test will be to confirm that the commands for Philae’s launch and landing are correctly programmed and that both Rosetta and Philae are ready to execute those commands.

Check back here for details.

Update, November 11, 2014, 9:30 p.m. EST: Rosetta and Philae have passed through more go-no-go tests in preparation for the comet landing. Mission scientists have confirmed that Rosetta and Philae are ready for their ambitious comet landing sequence. One final go-no-go decision remains at 1 a.m. EST/7 a.m. CET.

Update, November 12 at 1:48 a.m. EST: According to Rosetta mission scientists, Philae is having an issue with its thruster, which is designed to help push the probe down onto the comet during landing. Without the thruster, landing will be more risky. However, everything is still a go, right now.

Update, November 12 at 2:10 a.m. EST: Despite issues with Philae’s thruster, the final go-no-go decision is a go. Mission scientists expect to confirm that Philae has separated from Rosetta at 4:03 a.m. EST/10:03 a.m. CET. Without the thruster, a successful landing will depend greatly on the surface of the comet and the lander’s harpoons and foot screws.

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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