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Space & Astronomy

Philae mission officially comes to a close

By T.K. Randall
July 27, 2016 · Comment icon 6 comments

Philae's mission was still a huge success. Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 German Aerospace Center
After a year without communication, scientists have finally said goodbye to Philae for the last time.
In what has turned out to be a sad ending for the little probe which made history when it became the first spacecraft ever to land on a comet back in 2014, scientists at ESA have decided to cease all further attempts to communicate with Philae so as to maintain Rosetta's remaining power reserves.

The mission, though highly successful, was fraught with problems from the beginning after the probe bounced off the comet on landing and ended up in the shadows where its solar panels couldn't get enough sunlight to generate the power needed to keep it going properly.

Within the space of only 57 hours the probe fell silent, however six months later, as the comet reached its closest approach to the sun, Philae was able to power itself back up for a short time.
Now though, after a whole year without contact, the probe has been declared officially dead.

"It's sort of the end of an era. They've finally pulled Philae's life support," said Professor Monica Grady from the Open University. "Realistically, we've known for about a year that there wasn't going to be any further communication with Philae, although we kept hoping."

"Rosetta is so far away, it needs all the power it can get because the solar panels are not getting enough energy from the sun. So every unnecessary bit of power has to be switched off."

Source: | Comments (6)

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Comment icon #1 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
Philae didn't do everything they had hoped but she accomplished much of her mission and provided incredible data for future research.  So very  well done on this impossibly complex mission, congrats ESA and Rosetta still has a few tricks left but time is running out. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Sundew 8 years ago
I guess there is something to be said for nuclear power of space crafts. I believe that is what powers Cassini, the probe sent to Saturn. It would seem logical to me that an object like a comet that has a huge parabolic orbit and moves far away from the sun would be a prime candidate for such a propulsion system. Perhaps there are reasons for solar vs. nuclear, but solar seems a poor choice here.
Comment icon #3 Posted by South Alabam 8 years ago
So long, Philae. Well done.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 8 years ago
It is NOT a propulsion system. The nuclear system on Cassini provides electrical power not propulsion.   Do you really believe that ESA don't know what they are doing? Nuclear systems present all sorts of problems, not least the danger of contamination in the event of a launch vehicle failure. The Rosetta mission was designed specifically to examine the evolution of a comet during it's active period as it neared the Sun. It was never intended to continue it's mission once the comet became dormant again. As such solar power was the logical choice. Modern radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs),... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
Rosetta spent years in space but was designed to study the transition of a comet going from dormant to full coma and back which means it would have plenty of sunlight to do its mission.  Also, there was a real shortage of Plutonium 238 when Rosetta launched so, as Waspie said, and RTG made little sense.  Juno was in the same predicament which is one of the reasons she has one of the largest and most efficient solar panel arrays ever used on a space craft and she just recently broke the record for the most distant space mission to use a solar array. [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Saru 8 years ago
At least it succeeded in its mission - quite the accomplishment.

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