The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Philae lander, which made the historic launch on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has gone missing soon after its landing and the scientists are still waiting for signals from the sleeping lander.
Philae lander was carried by the Rosetta spacecraft that was launched in March 2004 from the Earth. In August 2014, Rosetta made history by becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet.
The 100 kg Rosetta Lander reached the comet’s surface in November last year, but its primary battery drained soon after the landing, cutting all the communications with Rosetta as well as ESA scientists.
Rosetta has clicked some of the interesting high-resolution images of the comet but has failed to find out the sleeping lander.
The ESA scientists suggest that they are now waiting for the lander to wake up and send them a signal.
According to an ESA blog, Philae lander touched the comet’s surface three times before making the final landing.
Meanwhile, the scientists suggest that the Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) of the Rosetta spacecraft had clicked some of the interesting images of the first Philae landing. The ESA is also working with other hints to trace the exact location of the Philae lander, but they are impatiently waiting for visual confirmation.
While explaining the reason behind lander going into slumber, the ESA scientists said that it requires illumination from the Sun to wake up. Philae requires nearly 6.5 hours of illumination from the Sun per 12.4 hours of the comet day at the touchdown site. Unfortunately, the lander only manages to receive about 1.3 hours of solar illumination at the new location.
Lander Project Manager Stephan Ulamec said, “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.”
The space agency is hoping that Philae’s landing site will be warm enough to wake up the lander by late March or early May when the inclination of sun over the estimated landing zone of the lander will be enough to provide sufficient solar illumination.