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Comet Lander's Batteries Die

But it manages to send data to scientists
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2014 4:40 PM CST
Comet Lander's Batteries Die
This image from Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera, released on Nov. 13, 2014, shows the Philae lander on Nov. 12.   (AP Photo/ESA,File)

(Newser) – In a development that's no huge surprise, the comet lander Philae is entering what the European Space Agency calls "idle mode." When the lander missed its intended spot on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko—and its harpoons didn't manage to lock into the comet successfully—it couldn't get the solar power it needed to keep working; now, its batteries have drained. The good news is that it managed to get some data to scientists before it was knocked out.

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They'll be able to analyze findings Philae made in the first-ever automated experiments on a comet's surface, Reuters reports. Indeed, an expert tells National Geographic, "It was a very successful mission; (the lander) has returned a lot of great data already." What's more, there's a chance it's not done yet. The comet is moving toward the sun, and "perhaps when we are nearer … we might have enough solar illumination to wake up the lander and re-establish communication," says one of the researchers. The comet will be closest to the sun next summer, National Geographic notes. (Read more comet stories.)

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