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)

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.

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. (More comet stories.)

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