PARIS: The European Space Agency Saturday hoped the Philae lender, which has fallen asleep on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as its batteries depleted because of less availability of sunlight, may communicate again tonight at about 10pm.
“From now on no contact would be possible unless sufficient sunlight falls on the solar panels to generate enough power to wake it up,” according to report.
Today, controllers performed a rotation hoping to put the lender’s solar panels out of a shadow, but they said they would not know until later if they had succeeded.
Philae landed on the comet Friday after a 10-year journey aboard the Rosetta space probe. Since alighting on the comet, which is some 500 million kilometres distant from Earth, the lender has performed a series of tests and sent back reams of data, including photos.
Today, the spacecraft not only rotated itself to catch more sunlight, but also performed another tricky manoeuvre, drilling 25 centimetres into the comet to start collecting samples. Material beneath the surface of the comet has remained almost unchanged for 4.5 billion years, so the samples would be a cosmic time capsule that scientists are eager to study.
Scientists hope the $US 1.6 billion project will help answer questions about the origins of the universe and life on Earth. Communication with the lender is slow, with signals taking more than 28 minutes to travel between Earth and Rosetta. No matter how long Philae keeps talking to them, scientists say they already have gathered huge amounts of data and are calling the first-ever comet landing a roaring success.