Attempts were made recently to attempt to communicate with the The European Space Agency’s comet lander Philae, although there was no response from the lander when the signal was sent. The lander has not been heard from since mid-2015, when it was heard from for the first time in 7 whole months.
The lander was launched in 2014 to study the comet that it’s on – 67P. The spot where it landed was less than opportune and provided it with insufficient sunlight to operate as expected.
It’s possible that the lander may never be heard from again as the lander continues to hitch a ride on a comet hurdling away from the Sun and is powering rays. As it continues to move away from the Sun’s heat, the temperatures are expected to hinder the lander’s equipment useless.
“We have to face reality, and chances get less and less every day as we are getting farther and farther away from the sun,” says lander manager Stephan Ulamec. “At some point we have to accept we will not get signals from Philae anymore.”
Those behind the lander and trying to communicate with it are expected to continue trying to communicate with it until it’s sure that nothing will be heard again.
The lander is expected to have important data on board that it has been collecting and without a proper way to get in touch with the lander, all of that information collection may have been for nothing.
“It’s certainly a bit sad that we could not retrieve more data after the wake-up in June,” says Ulamec. “We have to live with the data that we got in November 2014.”
New Scientist reports that Philae’s mother ship Rosetta will be eventually landing on 67P as it nears low orbit for the end of the mission in September of this year. When it does, the team expects to snap some pictures of Philae and see where it ended up.
Unfortunately, Philae may indeed have been a failed mission, but the mission has helped us learn a wealth of information about the makeup of comets.
Source: New Scientist