Philae lander is drilling into its new comet home

Drilling has begun on the first comet a spacecraft has ever landed on

The Philae lander has begun drilling into its new comet home, the European Space Agency reported Friday morning.

After the robotic probe's historic landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko earlier this week, scientists said they were concerned about drilling into surface because harpoons aboard the craft, designed to keep it tethered when touched down, had failed, causing it to bounce from its intended landing site. They said they were worried the force of the drills on such a low-gravity body could cause the lander to move again.

Scientists are also concerned about the life of the lander's batteries, and are not certain they can continue to provide enough power to access the scientific data the drilling is meant to obtain, the Associated Press reported.

Scientists believe the lander came to rest near a cliff that is largely blocking sunlight from hitting the craft's solar panels, which would recharge its batteries.

The ESA also released the probe's first panoramic view of the comet.

The Rosetta spacecraft circling 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko released the Philae lander on Wednesday, and several hours later the probe became the first craft to successfully land on a comet. The lander, which is the size of a washing machine, has since been sending data back to Earth from its new home.

Staff writer Deborah Netburn contributed to this report. 

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