Sweet dreams, Philae: ESA's lander goes to sleep in the absence of sunlight

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Mariella Moon
November 15th, 2014
Sweet dreams, Philae: ESA's lander goes to sleep in the absence of sunlight

ESA's comet lander Philae has ran out of batteries and gone to sleep at 7:30PM on November 14th, 2014. It was supposed to harness solar energy to continue its operations, but it unfortunately bounced twice during touchdown and settled in the shade. That doesn't mean the project failed, though -- before the machine's power source ran out, the ground crew decided to throw caution to the wind and proceed with the more physical parts of material gathering. See, after landing in a less than ideal position, the team thought it best to just collect molecules from the comet's surface and perform the experiments (about 80 percent of the total number) that didn't require mechanical movement.

As the batteries got more and more depleted, the team got bolder: they deployed the lander's MUPUS soil breaker and driller to get under the comet's surface, right before it lost contact with Rosetta. Fortunately, it managed to transmit the data it gathered from all its tasks that didn't require mechanical movement to its mothership. Also, the team successfully issued a series of commands that turned Philae's body and exposed a larger part of its solar panel system to the sun, in an effort to stave off its hibernation. The team will find out if the tactic worked once the next opportunity to communicate with the lander arrives at 5AM Eastern -- we'll update this story when the agency posts an update.

[Image credit: ESA]

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