Philae's Turbulent, Triple Touchdown

The Rosetta mothership took pictures of the European space probe as it bounced across the icy surface of a comet.   


The European Space Agency's historic comet landing came with several hiccups: Philae's harpoon anchors didn't fire, it bounced off of the comet twice, and it got stuck in a ditch. Now, the ESA has released images of the turbulent triple touchdown.

The Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS imager (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) took a series of photos that show Philae’s fall to Comet 67P. In six frames, the mosaic shows 30 minutes worth of Philae’s harrowing drift across the comet. On its first rebound from the surface, Philae reached a height of 0.62 miles, according to the ESA. The OSIRIS camera was 9.6 miles away from the surface of the comet when it took the astonishing shots.

According to NPR, the comet's gravitational pull was the cause of the big bounce. "Philae weighs more than 200 pounds on Earth, but on the comet, it weighs as much as a sheet of paper," the site explained.

Although the ESA has released pictures of the lander’s journey, they still do not have images of its unconfirmed destination. These images may provide clues to finding Philae’s final resting spot.