After being dormant for a long seven-month stretch of time, the European Space Agency's (ESA) comet lander Philae was heard from for the first time five days ago as it finally received enough power from its solar panels to send its mother ship Rosetta some housekeeping data, letting scientists know that everything was okay.
On Friday, Philae was excitingly heard from a second time.
This time, two additional bursts of housekeeping data were sent to Rosetta, which were spaced apart by approximately 17 minutes. The signals continue to confirm that Philae is doing well and is on schedule to continue its mission.
The 5-day silent treatment from Philae is due to its positioning in a shady location on the comet 67P, which those backing the project are hoping will change in due time.
It is currently on the ESA's to-do list to try and move Philae slightly so that it can maximize sunlight soak from the sun for improved power and reliability. This should be relatively easy to do on a comet that is on course to get closer to the sun in the near future.
Moreover, engineers working behind the scenes are trying to position Rosetta better so that it can communicate with Philae easier and improve the communication conditions and usefulness of the data being interpreted.
The major goal behind Philae is to grab some samples from the comet. It needs to drill deep into the ice of the comet to find out what makes up the ice and help determine if there is any sign of extraterrestrial life.
Apart from the Pluto fly-by mission that NASA has scheduled for next month, Philae is currently one of the most exciting space exploration operations going on in the skies right now. It should be interesting to see if the comet lander finds any useful data on 67P that scientists can use to draw practical conclusions or help understand our universe.