News, Science

Philae Spacecraft Wakes Up

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Rosetta's Philae touchdown. Image: DLR German Aerospace Center
Rosetta’s Philae touchdown. Image: DLR German Aerospace Center

Philae has woken up.

That is very, very good news. It’s news that scientists around the world were hoping for, and waiting for. And for good reason.

Philae is a spacecraft that was sent on an important mission by scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) about 10 years ago. It took a decade to reach its destination, an icy comet known as 67P (short for 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko).

The scientists wanted the Philae to land on the comet and send back information about it. They hoped it might even give them some clues about how our solar system was formed.

But when the Philae landed, it ended up in a shadow on the comet. That’s unfortunate, because it powers itself through a solar panel—which needs sunlight to energize.

Scientists hoped that this summer, when the comet moved closer to the sun, Philae’s solar-powered battery would pick up a bit of energy and it would “wake up.” And on Saturday, June 13 Philae woke up and started sending signals back to Earth for the first time in seven months.

The next day, Sunday, scientists received three, 10-second bursts of communication from Philae.

Now, scientists are working to keep Philae’s battery charging so they can give it enough power to resume its mission—collecting data on the P67 comet.

Some “fast facts” about the mission
10-year journey
Sent from French Guiana on March 2, 2004
European Space Agency (EPA)
Travelling at 84,000 mph
300 million miles away from Earth
Comet: 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Philae spacecraft, Rosetta “orbiting mothership”
Landed on 67P on November 12, 2014
Battery died November 15, 2014
Woke up June 13, 2015 (seven months)
ESA’s operation centre in Darmstadt, Germany received an 85-second transmission from Philae
Cost of mission: About 1.4 billion Euros

Related links
Previous TKN article on Philae:
http://teachingkidsnews.com/2014/11/18/1-scientists-hope-philae-will-wake-next-spring/

An excellent article in The Guardian about Philae’s wake-up:
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/14/rosetta-mission-hibernating-philae-lander-spacecraft-wakes-up

The Wikipedia page on Philae has detailed information about it:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philae_(spacecraft)

FAQs (ESA website):
http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/Frequently_asked_questions

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Philae is named after an obelisk (a monument) in Egypt that helped archaeologists uncover the meaning of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. With this in mind, why might have this name been chosen for the space lander?

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
Read one of the linked articles cited below the article. How does reading from two different sources extend your overall understanding of today’s article?

Primary
Extend understanding of oral texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge and experience; to other familiar texts, including print and visual texts; and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Junior
Extend understanding of oral texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights; to other texts, including print and visual texts; and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Intermediate
Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Language Feature: Personification
Personification is a literary device used by giving animals, plants, objects, or, even, ideas human characteristics.

Pretend for a moment that Philae were a person.

What type of person might he be? How does the personification of Philae change your response to his mission?

How does personification manipulate the reader?