After becoming the first spacecraft to land its probe on a comet, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter was able to spot water ice on the face of a comet. Specifically, 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it had been orbiting. However, contact was sadly lost this past weekend.
But fortunately, after almost 24 hours of lost contact, mission control finally re-established contact with Rosetta.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the lost contact was caused by the orbiter’s navigation system. Though Rosetta relies on the position of the stars to track its own position, it may have been confused when it encountered dust particles on the surface of the comet that it is monitoring.
Rosetta, better known as the mothership of Philae, was said to set itself on “safe mode” when transmission with mission control was lost, causing it to turn off all its equipment—instruments, cameras, radar, and analyzers.
Ground control sent “blind” commands to the orbiter in order to reset its trackers. Once transmission between mission control and Rosetta was established, it was moved away from the traversing comet and into a separate 30km orbit.
And so it’s journey continues.