Philae, the first lander on a comet, has gone to sleep two days after its landing, due to low battery levels.
The European Space Agency (ESA) released a lander named Philae, on Wednesday, as part of the Rosetta mission. It was Rosetta’s first attempt of a controlled landing on the Comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after 10 years of travelling.
Philae’s, first days on the comet were troubled. After the rough, but still successful landing, Philae couldn’t be located accurately but it became known that it had been stuck in shadow, unable to get enough sunlight to recharge its solar-powered batteries.
ESA scientists announced on Friday that they were trying to activate Philae’s onboard drill, and “hop” the robot into a sunnier position. They stated that Philae could only last 60 hours on the initial charge. Then it would need sunlight in order to charge again and keep the system on.
Philae successfully changed position and rotated 35 degrees. However it was too late for the batteries.
According to ESA’s members, Philae’s mission was to gather material from the comet’s surface and subsurface for further analysis.
Despite the fact that Philae went to sleep, ESA scientists managed to collect data from it, which they will analyze in the following days. ESA announced on its official website that Rosetta’s mission will continue regardless Philae’s fate.
Rosetta’s mission is to answer some fundamental questions about our solar system, by following the comet closely.
According to ESA, Rosetta is expected to pursue this goal until December 2015. By that time the comet will have reached its closest point to the sun.
As for Philae, although ESA scientists lost contact with it yesterday evening, they are very proud of this first attempt to land Philae on the comet and they consider the mission accomplished.
“History has been made. Science has been advanced. And we have taken a step closer towards understanding our cosmic origins. Let us always remember the day that Philae landed. I thank you all,” Stuart Clark, member of the mission’s control, said to the Guardian.
By Valia Papadopoulou