Rosetta mission: Philae probe's power may revive as comet travels nearer to sun

The ESA will have to wait until the comet travels nearer the sun after the first attempt to recharge using sunlight appeared to have failed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Philae comet lander may have gone into a long silence after depleting its batteries – but there remains a sliver of hope for the Rosetta probe scientists.

Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) hope that by manoeuvring the lander into the sun it may be able to partially recharge its batteries and communicate with the ground team once again.

However, after an initial attempt appeared to have failed as of 10am this morning, scientists hope that as the comet travels closer to the sun more sunlight may reach the lander, allowing them to resume contact.

Writing on the ESA’s blog, Stephen Ulamec, lander manager at the DLR German Aerospace Agency, said: “We still hope that at a later stage of the mission, perhaps when we are nearer to the Sun, that we might have enough solar illumination to wake up the lander and re-establish communication”.

ESA Rosetta Mission later tweeted: “S’ok Philae, I’ve got it from here for now. Rest well…”.

However, scientists were quick to expound the overall success of the mission lander after 57 hours - out of an anticipated 64 hours of battery - on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

 “It has been a huge success, the whole team is delighted,” said Stephan, who monitored Philae’s progress from ESA’s Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, this week.

“Despite the unplanned series of three touchdowns, all of our instruments could be operated and now it’s time to see what we’ve got.”

Philae landed on the comet, on Thursday after a 10-year journey on board the Rosetta probe, bouncing twice on arrival and jeopardising the entire mission.

The surface of comet 67P as photographed by the descending Philae lander.

Fortunately, the bounce appeared to do minimal damage and since successfully alighting the lander has returned all of its “housekeeping data”. It also returned science data from the targeted instruments and detailed photographs that scientists are currently studying.

Fred Jansen, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager, says, “At the end of this amazing rollercoaster week, we look back on a successful first-ever soft-landing on a comet.

“This was a truly historic moment for ESA and its partners.”