Lander drills into comet, rotates itself to catch rays

The spacecraft that landed on a comet performed two tricky maneuvers Friday, drilling into the rocky surface and rotating itself to catch more sunlight.

Both operations carried considerable risks because they could have toppled the probe or pushed it out into the void. But without them the Philae lander that scored a historic first by touching down on a comet Wednesday risked skipping a key scientific experiment and running out of battery.

Scientists at the European Space Agency said the maneuvers appeared to have worked.

“My rotation was successful (35 degrees). Looks like a whole new comet from this angle,” read a message posted on the lander’s official Twitter account.

Earlier, the scientists tweeted: “First comet drilling is a fact!”

Since landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko some 311 million miles away, the lander has performed a series of tests and sent reams of data, including photos, back to Earth.

But with just two or three days of power in its primary battery, the lander has to rely on solar panels to generate electricity after that.

Scientists were concerned to find Thursday that not only had Philae unexpectedly bounced twice before coming to rest untethered to the surface, but photos indicated it was next to a cliff that largely blocked sunlight from reaching two of its three solar panels.


Ex-police officer accused of training polygraph liars

A former Oklahoma City police officer has been indicted on charges of training people to lie about crimes during polygraph tests as part of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on security violators.

Douglas Williams, 69, is accused of committing mail fraud and obstructing justice in a five-count indictment handed down Thursday in the Western District of Oklahoma. The indictment alleges that Williams, who runs the website, trained two undercover agents to lie or conceal crimes during government lie-detector tests.

Williams has said he did nothing wrong. “This investigation is a way to go after me because I have the audacity to protest the use of the polygraph.”


Volcano starts erupting in uninhabited area of state

Alaska’s most active volcano is spitting lava into the air and producing an ash cloud at low elevations.

The 8,262-foot Pavlof Volcano started erupting this week in a relatively uninhabited area of the Alaska Peninsula, about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. The closest community is about 40 miles away.

Observers from that community, Cold Bay, reported seeing dark snow on the surface of the volcano Wednesday

– From news service reports