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The intended landing site is challenging — 20 per cent of the area is strewn with large boulders capable of tipping Philae over. Another 20 per cent has slopes greater than 30 degrees, making it too steep for landing, and 10 per cent contains deep crevices and cliffs up to 100 metres high.
"The simple fact remains that despite all these formidable challenges, this is still the best landing site on the whole comet," says Holmes.
"If things don't go well, Philae could just tip over. If it tips on its side there's still some science we can do, but if it rolls upside down, then it's finished, because the antennae for communicating with the Rosetta orbitor are on the top of the lander."
The first signal from Philae is expected in around two hours, when the lander establishes a communication link with Rosetta (...)
The lander will relay via Rosetta a status report of its health, along with the first science data. This will include images taken of the orbiter shortly after separation.
"The cold-gas thruster on top of the lander does not appear to be working, so we will have to rely fully on the harpoons at touchdown," Stephan Ulamec, Philae lander manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, reported in an ESA blog posting. "We'll need some luck not to land on a boulder or a steep slope."