On 14 June, our editors had a nice wake up when they received confirmation that comet lander Philae was back in touch with its orbiter Rosetta. At 22:38 CEST the previous night, signals were received at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Once all key partners had been informed, and following a briefing to discuss the details of the signal, the news could be announced.
The robotic lander separated from comet-chaser Rosetta before descending onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 12 November last year. It operated for 2.5 days as planned before entering a period of hibernation. Prior to this Philae sent back images of its surroundings – a dark location with high walls that limited the amount of sunlight reaching its solar panels.
However, with the comet soon approaching perihelion on 13 August 2015, its closest point to the Sun along its orbit – Philae has received enough sunlight to charge its solar panels and wake up from hibernation. The first contact – in approximately seven months – between the lander and Earth, via Rosetta, lasted 85 seconds. To announce this, the probe’s Twitter account, managed by EJR-Quartz on behalf of DLR tweeted, “Hello Earth! Can you hear me?”
The Rosetta mission was launched in 2004, before the days of social media, so much of the early coverage was through online news and blog entries. Having already maintained ESA’s Rosetta website throughout the mission, EJR-Quartz editors have played a key role in developing and running social media channels for Rosetta and Philae at ESA and DLR since 2013. The Twitter accounts are now some of the most followed in the agencies – Rosetta has more than 339, 000 followers and Philae has over 441, 000. We assist ESA and DLR with web and magazine articles and also support their social media campaigns. With the recent mission extension until September 2016, we are looking forward to continuing to support the mission and communicating the science being done by the comet-chasing duo.
Related resources and links
- Rosetta dedicated blog
- Philae blog
- Rosetta Press Kit
- ESA Science and Technology: Rosetta
- Where is Rosetta (interactive 3D visualisation tool)
- Comet Viewer