Low-battery probe uploading data from comet: ESA

A probe named Philae is seen after it landed safely on a comet, known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in this CIVA handout image released Nov 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A probe named Philae is seen after it landed safely on a comet, known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in this CIVA handout image released Nov 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Europe's comet probe Philae uploaded a slew of science data to Earth Friday, ending a nailbiting wait by mission controllers who feared it would run out of power before making final contact.

"Science from an alien world" said an official tweet from ESA (European Space Agency) Operations shortly before 2300 GMT (0700 Singapore time). "Info now flowing from @ Philae2014." The robot lab had been working against the clock, attempting to drill into comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko 510 million kilometres (320 million miles) from Earth, before its onboard battery runs out, expected some time Saturday.

The lander and its orbiting mothership Rosetta, which relays Philae's messages to Earth, have only two communications windows per day - the last opened around 2130 GMT.

Mission managers back on Earth had waited anxiously since Friday morning to see whether the probe would have enough power from its 60-hour onboard battery to do a final data upload.

A drill sample had been among the most highly anticipated results from Philae's mission, with scientists hoping for clues to the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago, and even the appearance of life on Earth.

It was not clear if the drill had been successful and whether sample analysis was among the data.

The lander bounced twice after touchdown Wednesday, settling in a crevice in a mystery location, shadowed from battery-boosting sunlight that could have extended its core mission.

"I hear you @ philae2014!" said a late night tweet in the name of the mothership.