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Farewell Philae: Rosetta’s Comet Lander Bids Goodbye

First Posted: Jul 28, 2016 04:19 AM EDT
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The European Space Agency (ESA) has reportedly said farewell to its Rosetta comet mission on Wednesday. The Philae lander touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. The decision to switch off Rosetta spacecraft's Electrical Support System Processor Unit (ESS) was taken after the lander remained silent for more than a year. The ESS is the interface used by Rosetta to communicate with Philae.

The latest move will enable the spacecraft to conserve energy to continue its operations during the next two months before it descends on the 67P comet on September 30, reported Daily Mail.

"By the end of July 2016, Rosetta will be some 520 million km from the Sun, and will start facing a significant loss of power-about 4W per day. It order to continue scientific operations over the next two months and to maximize their return, it became necessary to start reducing the power consumed by the non-essential payload components on board," the ESA noted on its blog entitled "Farewell, silent Philae".

The three foot wide Philae was the first spacecraft to land on the surface of a comet. Unfortunately, at time of landing, it bounced towards a shaded area due to the failure of its harpoon system where it failed to receive enough sunlight to power its solar panels. This was the reason that the lander's batteries quickly ran out of power and it could send back only a small portion of data that had been hoped for. While, a couple of attempts to contact the lander went unsuccessful, it managed to forward infrequent messages to Rosetta last year in June and July when the comet reached close to the sun. Since then, Philae has remained silent and no communication has been reported, according to CSMonitor.

ESA scientists had announced in February that the chances of regaining contact with Philae lander was near to zero, indicating that they might have to take a decision to kill the comet lander. People can bid a final goodbye to Philae by sending messages and pictures through social media using the hashtag #GoodbyePhilae.

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