Special Issue Research Articles

The landing(s) of Philae and inferences about comet surface mechanical properties

Science  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6247,
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9816

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Abstract

The Philae lander, part of the Rosetta mission to investigate comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was delivered to the cometary surface in November 2014. Here we report the precise circumstances of the multiple landings of Philae, including the bouncing trajectory and rebound parameters, based on engineering data in conjunction with operational instrument data. These data also provide information on the mechanical properties (strength and layering) of the comet surface. The first touchdown site, Agilkia, appears to have a granular soft surface (with a compressive strength of 1 kilopascal) at least ~20 cm thick, possibly on top of a more rigid layer. The final landing site, Abydos, has a hard surface.

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