This time last year, Kim Kardashian's nude Paper Magazine cover practically "broke the Internet." But something special happening out in space that same week was an equal contender in grabbing headlines.
After a summer rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed Philae on the object on Nov. 12, 2014. Despite a turbulent descent that saw the lander bounce away from its targeted landing, Philae completed the bulk of its mission.
Philae bounced into the shadows of the Abydos region on that fateful November day. ESA determined that the onboard harpoons necessary to anchor Philae did not fire. Prior to the landing, the thruster used to counteract the force from the harpoon firing did not work. Philae landed on comet 67p without a way to attach itself to the object. Despite bouncing to its new landing site, Philae managed to deliver 80 percent of its first science mission.
"It seems that the problem was either with the four ‘bridge wires’ taking current to ignite the explosive that triggers the harpoons, or the explosive itself, which may have degraded over time," Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, said in a statement.
With Rosetta performing to great success as it orbited comet 67P, ESA hoped Philae would wake up as it journeyed farther into the solar system. The comet was making its trip around the sun with the spacecraft in tow, the close proximity would lead to increased sunlight that could power Philae. Unfortunately, other problems prevented Philae from constantly communicating with Rosetta. Philae has communicated with Rosetta just eight times over the summer.