The Philae lander could wake up this Spring

8 Feb

The ESA (European Space Agency) may finally re-establish contact with the Philae lander sometime in May or June. That is when the comet 67P/Churgumov-Gerasimenka will be close enough to the Sun to recharge the batteries of the probe. Then Philae will be able to continue its mission that was cut short two and a half months ago.

“Now we need the extra solar illumination provided by the comet’s closer proximity to the Sun by that time in order to bring the lander back to life,” said Lander Project Manager Stephan Ulamec from the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Because of the location and the solar panel not being fully deployed the land won’t be able to take full advantage of the Sun when the comet is within range. So, if and when the Philae lander does wake up it might not be enough to restore access to all of its instruments.

We are already discussing and preparing which instruments should be operated for how long,” project scientist Stephan Ulamec said in a statement.

The Philae lander first made news last November when it became the first man-made object to land on a comet. The landing, though, didn’t go exactly the way it was planned when the anchoring harpoons did not function properly causing the lander to bounce a few times. It ended up finally coming back down in area that would only provide the batteries a fifth, 1.3 of the 6.5 hours, of the sunlight it needs each 12.4 comet day it needs to re-charge. Leaving Philae only enough power to last a couple of days before going dark.

The rough landing that caused the Philae probe to wind up in the wrong location has some good and bad aspects. The bad part of the land was that by landing where it did the probe ran out of power and went into sleep mode. The good news those is that by landing in a more shaded area, of the comet, Philae will be protect from the heat of the Sun that would have killed it.

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