Philae Comet Lander's Battery Runs Out; Rosetta Mission Managers Still Optimistic, Reflect on AchievementsBy Russell Westerholm, UniversityHerald Reporter
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Philae comet lander has lost power, but there is still the chance that it will come out of standby mode.
According to BBC News, Philae's awkward landing attempt missed the mark and left it lying in a shadow of a cliff on the comet. Now it cannot catch sunrays to recharge, so the ESA believes it will not be able to connect with the lander for some time.
— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 15, 2014
The first spacecraft to ever land on a comet, Philae worked tirelessly Friday to beam back as much data as possible ahead of its inevitable crash. The lander is still securely hitched to Comet 67P/CG.
"Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," Stephan Ulamec, ESA lander manager for the Rosetta mission, told BBC News. "This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered."
Despite Philae's predicament and the elongated radio silence it is expected to experience, mission managers are still ecstatic.
"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," Mark McCaughrean, senior scientific adviser to the ESA, told BBC News. "Philae could come back later as we move closer to the sun, and we get more light onto the solar panels up against the cliff we're at here in the shadows."
Philae's mission is expected to last through the end of 2015 as Comet 67P shoots toward the sun, Reuters reported. So mission managers are choosing to look at the incredible achievement of doing something that has never been done before.
"This mission is fantastic, let's look at what we have achieved, not at what we would have done differently," Andrea Accomazzo, Rosetta's flight director, told Reuters. "This is unique and will be unique forever."