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Anchor failure puts Philae lander in a precarious position – Part 1

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The historic landing of a European-made probe on a comet yesterday is still making news. It turns out that it was a bumpier ride than initially thought and now there are questions about what it may mean for the lander's mission.

    We begin with this report by Alok Jha of Independent Television News.

  • ALOK JHA:

    Unsecured, positioned precariously, but communicating. The Philae lander sent pictures today of its new home on a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth.

    One of its feet is in the corner here. In shadow, Philae is surrounded by what looked like sheer rocky cliffs. This was taken by Philae less than a minute before it touched down. Here, we see the lander on its seven-hour fall dwarfed by the comet. Philae ended up about a kilometer from its intended target. The cross is where it was meant to land. The box is where it is now.

  • MATT TAYLOR, Rosetta Mission Scientist:

    There's just something emotional within the context of having some manmade feature in the foreground of some alien landscape. And that just really gets you. And that's what is getting people now. This is where the emotion is. This is a massive technological feat.

  • ALOK JHA:

    Philae landed just after 4:00 p.m. yesterday, but the equipment designed to anchor it failed. That caused the lander to bounce back up off the surface of the comet by about a kilometer and along by a similar amount.

    Then, after about two hours, it came back down on to the comet again. But once again, it bounced off, eventually settling back on to the surface five minutes later. Scientists now know that Philae is lying on its side, two of its feet on the ground, one pointing into space.

  • ANDREA ACCOMAZZO, Rosetta Flight Operations Director:

    We don't know very well where it is on the surface of the comet, but we have no doubt it is on the surface. We don't exactly which attitude is which respect to the surface, but it is working marvelously. It's transmitting data continuously. We don't lose data. It's doing all the operations we command it to do, so it's perfectly working.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • ALOK JHA:

    The man who co-discovered the comet 45 years ago came along to congratulate the mission scientists.

  • KLIM CHURYUMOV, Astronomer:

    It is a great, great win. And I am very happy.

  • ALOK JHA:

    Philae's arrival at the comet has been a hair-raising, imperfect adventure, but it's in one piece and can now start its scientific work.

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