After seven months of being unresponsive, the comet probe Philae that landed on a comet November 12th of 2014 woke up and began transmitting data again. Now, with 15 days of silence since its last communication, the probe started up once more and transmitted for an entire 20 minutes.
Why has comet probe Philae been quiet?
The comet 67P was the final destination for Philae’s 10 year journey with Rosetta, its transport ship. As it landed, Philae bounced around on the rocky, unsteady surface before coming to a halt. Unfortunately, however, the comet probe ended up in a very shady area. Being solar powered, this was very disadvantageous for the craft.
The probe was able to transmit data for roughly 60 hours before it went offline due to power constraints. Had it landed in a more beneficial spot, there would not be an issue, however, because of its location, the comet probe can only charge so often due to there being little sunlight.
What is Philae transmitting?
To put it simply, the comet probe Philae is transmitting tests that it’s doing. Philae is, in essence, a portable lab. It is able to take surface samples, analyze the trajectory of the comet, and gather other useful information. It takes the data at face value where it then transmits that information back to Earth where scientists can analyze it. As it gets closer to the sun, scientists are hoping to record how the comet as well as the probe change.
Will the comet probe ever get enough light?
CNES, a French space agency, said that this most recent communication with the probe has been the best one yet. They believe it is promising and have high hopes that they will have a stronger connection so scientists can take control of the probe and possibly move it into more sun. Assuming this happens, the probe will be able to be manually controlled, allowing for many more intricate and thorough tests.
Many people thought that Philae was a failure after it went into stand-by mode due to a lack of power, however, the researchers at the CNES believe that there is still hope for the mission and that there will be plenty of useful data to come.