Scientists are still waiting to get the over 8,000 pieces of information that the lander has stored on its systems, and wait for it to start with its operations

The Philae lander is beginning its first operations, after waking up from a sleep that proved tense for those watching it from Earth.

The world rejoiced when the spacecraft, which landed on a comet and went to sleep late last year, sent back a message saying that it had woken up and was working. But its most important operations haven’t yet started.

Since it woke up, scientists have received over 300 data packets from the lander. But there are more than 8,000 left on the lander’s memory — and teams still have to pick through them all.

That data should show what has happened to the lander in the days since it woke back up on the comet. It will also help scientists determine where on the 2.5-mile wide rock it actually is, which has remained a mystery so far.


Now that it’s woken up and made contact with Earth, the lander will begin its mission of exploring the makeup of the material that makes up the comets surface. The team behind the mission will be able to speak to Philae again on Sunday night.

The scientists will also be looking to change the orbit of Rosetta, the probe that dropped Philae down onto the comet. Doing so might help to keep the link to the lander open for longer, letting the scientists send back more data.

On August 13, the comet will get as close to the sun as it will ever be, and then start swinging back again. The lander should be able to keep it charged until October, when it will run out of power and fall asleep again — that time perhaps never waking up.

Philae landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November. But after bouncing it landed in the shadow of a cliff, rather than in direct sunlight, and so didn’t manage to harness all of the solar power it had hoped to pick up.

That meant that scientists could only communicate with it for about 60 hours, managing to conduct some experiments and send information back. But then it ran out of energy and went to sleep, until it woke up this weekend.