In a breathtaking moment, Philae, a scientific probe, for the first time since it landed on the comet 67-p, sent signals back to earth indicating “Hey! I am still alive! can You hear me? ”.
For the last few years, efforts have been going on by space agencies throughout the world to probe chemical make-up of rocky dirty ice balls, known as Comets, which are found to exist beyond outer most planets, Neptune and Pluto, in our solar system . Some of these comets have highly elliptical shape orbits around the sun, and pass much close to it once in their orbit cycle, than any other planet.
European space agency members, who commanded Philae landing on the 67-p comet through a host space ship, Rosetta, few months back, tried to catch signals again Tuesday after the successful brief hearing last Saturday and Sunday, but this time all in vain. This difficulty of making a permanent contact with Philae is expected, provided the circumstances and rigid environment facing the lander.
Unfortunately, the probe landed deep inside a crater on 67-P, where sunlight cannot penetrate enough to re-charge the probe. Thus, it could not have enough power, either to drill into the comet rocks for chemical experiments, or to make a contact with researchers on the earth. It was not until few months that 67-P passed so close to the Sun that solar radiation became intense enough to recharge the probe. Even then, out of 12.4 hour day on the 4km wide dirty ice ball, sunlight exists for only 3 hours, which is in-sufficient.
ESA scientists, in a bid to signal-command the probe, are re-orienting the direction and height of the Rosetta space ship above the comet. Right now, it is at a height of around few hundred kilometers and works as an intermediary, establishing contact to and fro from the probe to earth. An additional hindrance facing Rosetta as 67-p comes closer to Sun is, with intense heat the comet’s ice has started to melt, turning it into a massive shower of dirt and gas into deep space. This gaseous emission can cripple the navigation system of the space ship into functioning properly.
Scientists, finding the answers to the origins of life, are keen to know the elements existing beneath the icy comets .They believe early comets, in the universe’s 4.5 billion years history, may have impacted/ collided with our Earth, transferring basic carbon compounds here. These carbon compounds then became the breeding ground for the whole humanity.
If the Philae probe, in its drill experiment, succeeds in getting amino acids/ carbon based compounds, we would be one step closer in our endeavor to understand the origins of life.