Data from Philae’s arrival on comet 67P suggests that the comet has an extremely hard surface that is mostly covered in dust and ice.
Regardless of this, getting past the surface has proven incredibly difficult as the MUPUS tool found it impossible to hammer beyond the icy surface, even when set to its maximum output.
Upon deployment, Philae used the MUSPUS probe to attempt to crack the surface of the comet, “but was unable to make more than a few millimetres of progress even at the highest power level of the hammer motor,” a report from the European Space Agency (ESA) stated on its blog for the Rosetta Mission.
As well as studying the make-up of the comet, Philae also landed on the comet in an attempt to “sniff ” the atmosphere to try and detect any organic molecules, the building blocks of life. This comes out of the science community’s desire to further understand where life originated from as many scientists have suggested that it could have arrived on a comet.
COSAC, the sample analyser for Philae according to the Rosetta Team “worked as planned,” but scientists didn’t know whether a surface sample from the comet had actually been analysed.
Additionally, COSAC attempts to study the comet have revealed that the solid part of the comet has a very low density, a point that suggests that the inside of the comet is much weaker than its rigid, hard surface.
“If we compare the data with laboratory measurements, we think that the probe encountered a hard surface with strength comparable to that of solid ice,” said Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for MUPUS and part of the Rosetta Team overseeing Philae.
In addition to attempting to analyse the surface, MUPUS also contains various tools to measure the temperature of the comet, and got readings of -153 and -163 Celsius upon its landing.
As well as processing the MUPUS, Rosetta team also has the SD2 drill which should be able to drill even beyond 20 centimetres into the surface, hopefully being able to shed some more light on comet 67P.
As humanity continues to uncover more about the mysterious celestial bodies that litter space, perhaps we will discover more about our origins not only as a species, but as a galaxy. It is believed that many comets are the result of left-over material left adrift since the formation of the Milky Way.