European space probe Philae “sniffed” out organic molecules containing the carbon element that forms the basis of life on Earth before it ran out of battery, scientists have said.
One of the key aims of the mission was to discover whether carbon-based compounds and therefore life were brought to Earth on comets.
Philae landed on Comet 67P/C-G on Thursday after a 10-year journey on board the Rosetta spacecraft.
It completed its 57-hour mission on the comet’s surface on Saturday after sending back data from a series of experiments.
Comets date back to the formation of the solar system and contain preserved ancient organic molecules.
The DLR German Aerospace Centre said on Tuesday that a COSAC gas analysing instrument detected the first organic molecules on the atmosphere of the comet after landing.
The probe also drilled into the comet surface to search for molecules, although it was unclear if it managed to send a sample for analysis.
Tilman Spohn, who lead the team behind experiments to measure the density, thermal and mechanical properties of the comet surface, said the revelation was a surprise…. see more