Ground control bids farewell to Philae comet lander
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission dropped the robot onto Comet 67P in November 2014. But after a troubled landing and 60 hours of operation, there has largely been radio silence from Philae. The German Aerospace Center (DLR), which led the consortium behind Philae, said the lander is probably now covered in dust and too cold to function.
The probe’s historic landing famously happened several times in succession – with its first bounce looping nearly 1km back from the comet’s surface and lasting a remarkable 110 minutes. When it finally settled, its precise location was unknown but images and other data suggested it was sitting at an awkward angle, in the shade.
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Space technology: trees at the root of living spaceships
While a full-blown bioship is a long way off, space engineers are investigating whether living cells could be used to grow individual components of a spacecraft. Scientists already imitate nature for some spacecraft functions such as the heat pipes in large satellites that use fluid to transfer thermal energy in a similar way to the nutrient transport system in trees.
Now David Barnhart, director of the University of Southern California’s Space Engineering Research Centre, has written a proposal to “grow a tree in space”, in collaboration with Nicole Atudosiei, a professor of plant science at Bioterra Bucharest University in Romania. The pair believe that if they can create a tree capable of surviving in space, it would demonstrate technologies that could eventually lead to a more elaborate bioship.
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