ESA’s Rosetta probe to make contact with Philae lander for eight days

ESA’s Rosetta probe to make contact with Philae lander for eight days

The Rosetta probe of the European Space Agency (ESA) will attempt to make contact with its sleeping lander, Philae Thursday.

Philae is a robotic lander that accompanied the Rosetta spacecraft, which was sent in 2004 by ESA in the direction of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Rosetta entered orbit of the comet last year and dropped Philae on 12 November 2014.

However, after achieving its first-ever soft landing the lander bounced on the comet and came to rest in a spot where its solar panels could not see the sun. It soon ran out of power and now remains shut down and in safe mode.

Due to reduced sunlight and off-nominal spacecraft orientation at its unplanned landing site, the ESA was left with no choice but to put it into sleep mode.

The lander’s distance from the sun over the last four months has meant it wasn’t receiving adequate rays to charge its batteries. But now there is the possibility of enough rays to reach the lander to charge it up again.

As soon as Philae will receive more than 5.5 watts of power and its internal temperature is above –45°C, it will turn on, heat up further and attempt to recharge its battery.

Lander Project Manager Stephan Ulamec from the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) said, “Philae currently receives about twice as much solar energy as it did in November last year. It will probably still be too cold for the lander to wake up, but it is worth trying. The prospects will improve with each passing day”.

The ESA scientists also assume there might be a possibility that Philae is already awake, but lacks power to communicate. So Rosetta probe will make flybys of the comet starting 12th March till 20 in a bid to establish a communication link with the lander.