Philae comet lander slumps into standby after sending last-gasp data
The Philae comet lander lost power and went into standby mode after sending the last transmissions from the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G) on Saturday.
The probe landed on the comet on Wednesday and bounced twice before coming to a halt in the shadow of a cliff-face. Experts believe the bouncing impact led to a system failure in its landing mechanism, and with only one and a half hours of sunlight during the comet’s 12-hour day, its solar panels were unable to receive sufficient light to charge its batteries.
On Friday, scientists attempted to rescue the lander by lifting it about four centimetres and rotating it by 35 degrees. However, this proved unsuccessful. Although it has now gone into sleep mode, it is hoped that as the comet moves closer to the sun it may be able to charge.
Before losing power, the launcher was able to achieve all of its primary goals.
ESA’s senior scientific advisor professor Mark McCaughrean commented: “All of the science instruments on board have done all the work they were supposed to do, so we have huge amounts of data back on the ground now, which is really exciting.”
The Philae lander is part of the ESA’s Rosetta mission, alongside the Rosetta orbiter. Both were launched in 2004 and have travelled 6.4 billion kilometres in order to reach 67P/C-G.
Material beneath the surface of the comet has remained unchanged for 4.5 billion years, it is hoped that by examining the comet scientists will be able to uncover new information pertaining to the origins of the solar system.
Although the launcher is currently out of action, the Rosetta orbiter will continue to scan for signals, as well as carry on taking photographs and studying 67P/C-G until December 2015.
ESA’s Rosetta mission manager Fred Jansen said: “We now look forward to many months of exciting Rosetta science and possibly a return of Philae from hibernation at some point in time.”