Comet lander Philae awakes from hibernation

BERLIN (AP) — The comet lander Philae has awakened from a seven-month hibernation and managed to communicate with Earth for more than a minute, the European Space Agency said Sunday.

The probe became the first spacecraft to land on a comet when it touched down on the icy surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November. After its historic landing Philae managed to conduct experiments and send data to Earth for about 60 hours before its batteries were depleted and it was forced to shut down its systems.

Scientists hoped the probe would wake up again as the comet approaches the sun, allowing its solar panels to charge the on-board battery.

The German Aerospace Center, DLR, which operates Philae, said the probe resumed communication at 10:28 p.m. (2028 GMT; 4:28 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, sending about 300 packages of data to Earth via its mother ship Rosetta, which is orbiting the comet.

“Philae is doing very well,” said DLR’s project manager Stephan Ulamec, adding: “The lander is ready for operations.”

Ulamec said the probe appears to have been awake for some time before it called home, because some of the packages received contained historical data.

Philae has more than 8,000 data packages still stored in its memory, which scientists hope to receive when the probe next communicates with Earth. The data contained therein may help them determine where exactly Philae has landed.

The probe’s exact location has been a mystery, though scientists have narrowed down its likely location based on images and other measurements received from Philae and Rosetta.

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