Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University joy as space probe Philae wakes up

By Michelle Smyth

A Queen's University astrophysicist has said it is "absolutely fantastic" that space probe Philae has woken up and made contact with scientists after seven months of silence.

The probe communicated with the ground team on earth for around 85 seconds on Saturday night after sending data to earth via mother ship Rosetta, which is orbiting the comet.

Philae had been in hibernation since November when it became the first spacecraft to touch down on the surface of a comet. It was designed to analyse ice and rock on Comet 67P.

However, the probe worked for only 60 hours before going dormant after its solar powered battery drained. It had bounced twice on the icy comet when its anchoring system failed.

In January, Esa called off the dedicated search for the probe.

There was surprise when its re-awakening was announced by the probe's Twitter account, run by a control centre in Cologne: "Hello Earth! Can you hear me?"

Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at QUB's Astrophysics Research Centre, is part of the support team for the mission.

He said the development was "wonderful" for European astronomy and everyone involved.

"The probe can really tell us something about how our solar system was formed," he said.

"Rosetta has been beaming commands every couple of weeks to Philae, in the hope that it will signal back, and now it has.

"Philae is basically saying 'Hello, I'm awake, I'm going to check myself out and then we can get back to doing some science'."

Philae's landing on a fast-moving comet 300 million miles away has been hailed as one of humanity's greatest science achievements.

Belfast Telegraph