Lost and found

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The missing lander of the Rosetta mission was found over the weekend, but there’s not much they can do with it now that it’s been located.

Fellow space enthusiasts will recall the Philae lander went missing about two years ago after landing on a comet. 

It remained operational for a few days, sending back some images of its unfortunate landing site. However, attempts to locate the lander by the Rosetta craft, which remains in orbit around the celestial body, were unsuccessful until now. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Sunday, the European Space Agency received updated photos from Rosetta that precisely identify where the lander ended up, wedged between a rock and a dark place. 

I was intrigued when the mission began years ago. When the lander found an unfortunate fate, I was equally disappointed that the mission found a quick ending. 

There’s still one step left before the mission comes to an end, for Rosetta to crash-land on the asteroid. Crash-landing the orbiter into the surface at this point seems a bit premature. 

The thing is, now that the lander has been found, I feel they should try to learn as much as they can about comets by leaving Rosetta in orbit until the sun officially kills the mission. 

As the comet nears our sun having a piece of technology in orbit and operational can provide some very interesting data, and some out of this world images. 

But even if they do carry out the self-destruct end to this mission, there is some hope that the Philae will pull one last trick out of its hat as the comet nears the sun. Hopefully the extra solar power will awaken the dead lander, and allow it to carry out at least a couple of last minute observations. 

Overall however, the mission was not a complete washout. Landing a man-made object on a comet had to have been a difficult task. So, even though the lander was only able to operate for a short time, it’s still a giant leap for mankind.