back to article Philae comet probe got down without harpoons

ESA head of mission operations Paolo Ferri has said that the harpoons meant to anchor the Philae lander to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko did not actually fire as they'd thought earlier. Artist's impression of Philae on Comet 67P But regardless, the craft is reporting that it’s stable on the space-rock, so …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I remember watching Giotto go through the tail of comet Halley. And that was cool.

    This is just absolute zero.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Cor.

      I too remember that ... and there's a nice movie made from all the frames at

      Just like old times... :-)

  2. bill 36
  3. Anonymous Blowhard

    You can't beat a good screw!

    'nuff said

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    Good luck, at the end of the day

    "Since the harpoons failed to fire, the lander is likely anchored by its three ice-screw legs."

    Or possibly fewer than three. It will be important to find out (if possible) why the thruster had failed and why the harpoons didn't work. For now, we can breathe a sigh of relief and raise a glass, or three.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

      Better get on with launching Bruce Willis and a couple of Hero 3s, because it is going to be a little difficult to investigate up there.

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

        I saw a news item that featured a duplicate of Rosetta in a test/simulation chamber and I'd be surprised if they didn't have a duplicate of Philae available for prodding and poking. If you're building something like these, the marginal cost of making two instead of one (at the same time) is a very small fraction of the project budget.

        They could give a duplicate Philae (or its component subsystems) a good hammering in a test chamber to see what failure modes are induced under what conditions.

        1. David Given

          Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

          IIRC, for any piece of space hardware like this they build multiple copies of each component anyway --- to test against each other, and in case someone drops one (it's happened, they've dropped a complete $300M satellite on the assembly room for before), and to give them something to try potentially risky procedures on, etc. So yeah, I'd be totally unsurprised to hear that they have a complete identical Philae in a lab somewhere.

        2. Pet Peeve

          Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

          There is a duplicate of Philae in the lab, I heard an interview with one of the scientists who designed the mission on the Quirks and Quarks podcast last week.

          He was saying that the spent the last ten years learning exactly how the instruments would work and what they could learn from them. He was joking that it wasn't all "putting my feet up on the desk and waiting for ten years to go by". Good interview!

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

      At least the recoil didn't take it away from the comet!

    3. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Good luck, at the end of the day

      From other projects I've read about; they'll build many copies of a space craft: One primary to be launched, a second one in case the first is found to be defective on or near launch.

      Then there will be several engineering copies to test one or two pieces. None of these will be full copies, but you can assemble one form multiple models with dummy components taking the place of the systems not under test. One might be uses solely to test the drills, another the landing gear, and maybe a third that is the drill and landing gear sections. These copies only get used once since they get pushed through stress testing and you're not going to test against a already-stressed component.

  5. Semtex451 Silver badge

    Must've been the FSM guiding it to safety with its noodley appendages

    1. InfiniteApathy

      Thank you for making my morning!

    2. Pseu Donyme

      So say we all.

    3. Nick Gisburne

      FSM for the win

      Intelligent falling is thus proven and is no longer 'just a theory'

  6. Zebo-the-Fat

    Fantastic, I can't wait to see the pictures

  7. Scott Broukell

    Bloomin typical !

    You unpack yer new washing machine and two things go wrong almost immediately, no wonder they've taken it back to Comet!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Bloomin typical !

      According to a report by the Sun, Comet was sailing too close to the [solar] wind, was shedding capital like there's no tomorrow and eventually faded away.

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Bloomin typical !

      Well played that man.

  8. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Great work despite the glitches. I will certainly raise a glass.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Yes, yes ...

    But will it blend?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Yes, yes ...

      Well, at least they didn't break the comet!

      I read the piece this morning about landing on a rock doing 60km/second as a 'first' and thought, surely, no, the moon? But that's only doing a klick a second relative to earth. Kudos indeed.

  10. linicks

    Just brilliant

    Brilliant stuff - and it is beyond me how you navigate such a small craft millions of miles away so accurately onto a hurling rock, and it all (nearly) works perfectly.

    I am as star struck now as I was during the Apollo missions, which where perhaps a lot more brilliant as I was a 10 year old kid.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Just brilliant

      how you navigate such a small craft millions of miles away so accurately onto a hurling rock,

      Same way hedgehogs make love.

      1. Irony Deficient

        Re: Just brilliant

        Nigel 11, are you saying that the ESA uses hedgehog genitalia for navigation?

        1. Pet Peeve

          Re: Just brilliant

          "And the comet can never be buggered at all".

    2. Salts

      Re: Just brilliant

      With you on that, I felt 10 again, the BBC mentioned a man in the street who said he had been feeling nervous all day and wondered how the mission control people felt, I really can relate to that :-)

    3. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: Just brilliant

      It's even more incredible than your summary. The craft flew over 1 beeeellion er miles or km (probably km) and used Earth and Mars multiple times to slingshot. It was put into hibernation and woken up. And it did this over 10 years.

      Now that's ambitious and frankly beats the shit out of some science fiction for being a bit conservative.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just brilliant

        Indeed, the hibernation didn't work out too well in 2001.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Indeed, the hibernation didn't work out too well in 2001.

          It was working brilliantly until the computer threw a wobbly, which just goes to show that robots should not be used for space exploration. They are untrustworthy, mutinous, murderous and creep out the humans with their voices just to be gits.

          They are no good at amateur radio repair either.

  11. M Gale

    And if you want to track the state of the link...

    You could do a lot worse than clicking here.

    As of the time of posting, it looks like the link has gone kaput. It was downlink-only earlier, at some slow speed. Wonder if they can bounce the signal off other spacecraft in the DSN?

  12. Stefing

    "We landed TWICE" ;)

  13. Stevie Silver badge


    So the counter-thruster broke, the harpoons malfunctioned and the lander is down and attached.

    Sounds like this plucky little lander is taking names DESPITE the so-called "scientists" who designed and built it.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      No, more like planning for worst day ever. Kind of reminds me of a couple of rovers who could (and one still can).

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Kind of reminds me of a couple of rovers who could (and one still can).

        If the rovers had arrived with their wheels broken maybe I'd concede the point. The rovers wore out during the mission, while working hard. This poor little lander's comet acquisition and snaffling machinery broke down en route.

        And now they can't even figure out if the screw piton legs have worked or whether the lander simply bounced until it got fouled in the comet.

        Make them give back their grant money, I say.

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge


          Once the stupid power plant is build, you will power a continent.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: @Stevie

            Why? Because I pointed out that so far the only part of the mission to have worked as designed was the bit that required only maths, and that the bit that required engineering has proved to be packed mostly with fail?

    2. Mr Fuzzy

      Re: Bah!

      Despite? So-called? Scientists?

      You might find a few engineers taking exception there, what with the machine managing to perform even though it was multiply knackered after many years in a brutally harsh environment.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        "You might find a few engineers taking exception there, what with the machine managing to perform even though it was multiply knackered after many years in a brutally harsh environment."

        Presumably these would be the same engineers who were asked to design a harpoon scheme and thruster that would survive the journey? Because, you know, 0/10 right there.

        Or was this a six-month flight that fell foul of the Google Maps navigation system?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Up leaps the race of Earthmen

    Out, far, and onward yet

  15. Denarius Silver badge

    waiting, waiting

    for some self loathing human hating clod to whine about leaving junk lying around in the pristine cosmos like they have about Moon relics from Apollo, or is only Oz that has this kind of compulsive whiners ? Meanwhile, well done to ESA boffins of all skills.

  16. RudeUnion
    Thumb Up

    no overnight job

    Conceived in the 80's, funding began in the 90's and launched in 2004, where it travelled for 10 years to reach a comet that orbits from Jupiter to the sun. Major crises averted, now we wait 12 hours for this rock to rotate to see if it's still there. Sounds like a scientific soap opera. Tune in tomorrow. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

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