After months of trying to establish contact with the Philae space probe, the unyielding radio silence convinces scientists to give up on comet lander for good.
European scientists announced this Friday that they have finished sending commands to Philae after all their efforts so far have been unsuccessful. The space probe landed on a comet in November 2014 and it was the first one to achieve this record.
According to the German Aerospace Center, the last contact made with the lander happened in July 2015. Scientists managed to place it on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but soon after it arrived there, the climate conditions became unfavorable. Temperatures dropped to minus 180 degrees Celsius at night, which caused the machine to malfunction.
The scientists now believe that the chances of reestablishing contact with it are close to zero, therefore they are stopping all efforts of reaching out. The mission was accompanied by a string of misfortunes from the very beginning.
Apparently, during landing the probe was not able to attach itself to the icy terrain of the comet and it bounced around three times, until it managed to position itself near a cliff. Unfortunately, the location was not suitable for the machine, because its solar panels didn’t receive enough sunlight, which contributed greatly to its impairment.
Nevertheless, the mission was not a complete bust. Before Philae went silent, it managed to send back a vast amount of information about the comet. This means that the scientists will be busy for a few years analyzing all the data that they received.
Comet 67P resides some 222 million kilometers from our planet, between Mars and Jupiter’s orbits. Philae is the lander module of Rosetta, which is also set to land there in September, giving researchers more opportunities to study the cosmic body and to take one last glance at Philae.
Rosetta is a mission launched by the European Space Agency, with the help of all its member states, along with NASA. Its objective is to perform an in-depth study of comet 67P. Its name originates from the Rosetta Stone, a wooden slab of Egyptian origin, while the lander module comes from the Philae obelisk, which presents a Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription.
Rosetta was the first spacecraft ever to fly near Jupiter’s orbit, using solar cells as the main energy source. Scientists say that in around six years, Rosetta and Philae will be coming near Earth again, since the comet will circle the sun.
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