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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

The Philae Spacecraft Landed in the Shadow of the Comet's Cliff

•, By Emily Dreyfuss

And then it bounced off. Twice. The scientists and watching world held a communal breath. But now we can all exhale, as not only is the lander back on the surface, somewhere, it is sending pictures to ESA.

Those pictures show that one of the three feet of the lander, known as Philae, is not currently touching the surface of the comet. It is suspended in the vacuum of space. In a stunning, currently unprocessed image, you can just make out the suspended lander foot over-exposed in the shadow of a massive cliff. This shadow means Philae's solar batteries are not charging at the expected rate, but at a press conference this morning an emotional and sleep-deprived European Space Agency emphasized that Philae is stable. For now.

Philae should have sent harpoons into the surface to anchor itself to the comet as it hurtles through space. As was clear pretty soon after contact yesterday, that mechanism failed.

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