We're Running Out of the Nuclear Fuel That Powers Space Travel

Rosetta's lander lasted just 60 hours on a comet after it bounced into the dark shadows of a cliff, where its solar panels couldn't power the vehicle. Why didn't it carry a more reliable power source, say a nuclear battery like one that's unfailingly fueled Voyager for decades? It's a simple question with a… » 12/02/14 12:30pm 12/02/14 12:30pm

Rosetta's Lander Has Found Organic Molecules on a Comet 

Philae, the probe that landed on a comet as part of the Rosetta mission, has detected organic molecules in the comet's atmosphere. We don't know exactly what the molecules are yet, but they could hold a key to early life on Earth. Hell, this is a big reason we sent Rosetta all the way to a lonely comet in the first… » 11/18/14 2:04pm 11/18/14 2:04pm

Philae Bouncing Off the Comet, Caught in Amazing Rosetta Images

Everyone's favorite underdog lander, Philae, was traveling at about 1.6 feet per second as she zoomed towards the formidable chunk of ice and rock known as 67P. That was slow enough that her mothership Rosetta was actually able to capture the descent in images released today by the ESA. » 11/17/14 10:31am 11/17/14 10:31am

Conspiracy Theorists Are Having a Field Day With Philae

As is true with almost any spacefaring mission, conspiracy theorists are eager to deconstruct and point out the LIES! our government space agencies are telling us, and of course, the ESA's recently successful Philae mission is no exception. But I've got to say, this conspiracy tale would make a great book. » 11/16/14 11:00am 11/16/14 11:00am

Rosetta's Lander Is Now Asleep on the Comet, Waiting For a Brighter Sun

Goodnight, Philae, though not, we hope, goodbye. The lander is now in sleep mode, keeping "all instruments and most systems on board shut down." Thankfully, engineers managed to gather all the collected comet data before Philae's batteries were depleted. If we're lucky, it may wake up when it gets closer to the Sun. » 11/14/14 9:00pm 11/14/14 9:00pm

First comet drilling ever confirmed: 100% successful mission, says ESA

Against all odds, Philae has confirmed that the first ever drilling of a comet has happened! ESA has received telemetry data indicating that the drill worked. They also managed to send ALL data before going into sleep mode. What is Philae going to find? Perhaps the building blocks of life? UPDATE 5. » 11/14/14 6:51pm 11/14/14 6:51pm

The Last Ditch Attempt to Prolong Philae's Life on a Comet

With Philae's battery dying, the Rosetta mission's ground controllers have decided to make one last go at it. The probe had ended up in the shadow of a cliff after a botched touchdown, unable to gather enough energy with its solar panels. Ground control is going to try rotating Philae so one of its larger panels… » 11/14/14 6:02pm 11/14/14 6:02pm

Philae's Bad Landing Turns the Rosetta Mission Into a Race Against Time

It was a historic landing on a comet, but unfortunately, not a smooth one. The ESA confirmed that Rosetta's lander, Philae, bounced twice and ultimately ended up sideways in the shadow of a cliff, where its solar panels can't gather enough energy. When Philae's battery dies, the mission will die with it. » 11/13/14 3:01pm 11/13/14 3:01pm

A size comparison of the comet 67P with popular sci-fi spaceships

Christopher Becke, a high school physics teacher, made this outstanding size comparison showing what the Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko would look like next to famous spacecrafts from science fiction. His images show the comet next to ships from Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. » 11/12/14 11:40pm 11/12/14 11:40pm