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Rosetta probe belatedly finds the Philae comet lander

The ESA probably wishes it made this discovery months ago.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 5, 2016
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ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

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You have to sympathize with the European Space Agency. It's less than a month away from crashing its Rosetta probe into its host comet, and it just found the Philae comet lander -- you know, the machine the mission team stopped trying to contact back in July. Photos show that the lander get stuck in a dark crack on the comet in a position that prevents it from getting sunlight, revealing exactly why it went to sleep after a mere three days of activity. The ESA has had a general idea of where Philae was, but the low-resolution photos available before now made it hard to pinpoint the machine's location.

It's a bittersweet discovery when the agency can't change history. Philae won't come back to life, and even photos won't be available for much longer. The ESA is still happy, though. This gives it the "proper context" it was missing for Philae's fate, and lets the team shift its attention to photographing Rosetta's eventual crash site. Think of this as a form of closure. Researchers may never get Philae back, but they won't be left wondering what happened to their pride and joy.

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