Philae comet lander falls silent

Jul 22, 2015

by BBC

The Philae comet lander has fallen silent, according to scientists working on the European Rosetta mission.

The fridge-sized spacecraft, which landed on Comet 67P in November, last made contact on 9 July.

But efforts to contact it again since then have failed, scientists have said.

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11 comments on “Philae comet lander falls silent

  • The surface of the comet is probably unstable and will become more so as it approaches the Sun.

    The probe may well have moved again, thus losing sunlight on its solar cells, or its line of communication with the orbiting Rosetta probe.

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  • 2
    christopher says:

    You know i wonder if its such a good idea to give these probes and landers twitter accounts ( i.e personalities) people are weird that way in that they could see them to much as human in their own right, anthropomophrizing them to much. I dread to think of the possibility of pressure on NASA, JPL or ESA to not fund and send these probes due to public backlash on this issue. Maybe I am over blowing the danger of it. I am guessing its done to humanize the science and generate support and interest, but still I wonder if its such a wise policy, many people are emotionally driven. Heck I admit when I first read the article headline, I was sad for the thing, then I realized wait , its a machine , it doesn’t have feelings, etc. But how many people will, and do see the distinction in that ? A lot less than the space agencies think, tax dollars is what funds these programs NASA et. al should be careful with the humanizing.

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  • christopher
    Jul 22, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I dread to think of the possibility of pressure on NASA, JPL or ESA to not fund and send these probes due to public backlash on this issue.

    I’m not sure what “backlash” you mean?
    Both Rosetta and the Philae lander were highly successful in their primary missions, with Rosetta now continuing to monitor the comet and send back data. Philae had an unfortunate accident in falling into shadows preventing its solar cells from charging its battery, but may yet revive and give follow-up results as the comet progressively disintegrates.

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  • 4
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    That’s a bit worrisome. I just hope it wasn’t somehow damaged or flung off the surface by comet debris. When the harpoon failed to function during landing, I had a feeling that would compromise the mission. The gravity is so weak that it doesn’t take much for an unanchored probe to leave the surface of the comet.

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  • I was a bit sad as well, but for a different reason mostly, the lost data we could have got. I personally doubt what you say should become an issue, but people are kinda stupid sometimes lol.

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    Comet yields ‘rich array’ of organics

    One leading scientist has even described the chemicals as “a frozen primordial soup”.

    This supports the theory that comets may have seeded the early Earth with the ingredients for life.

    The findings came after the lander, known as Philae, touched down on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 67P in November.

    It was dropped by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta “mothership” in the climactic stage of a ten-year mission.

    Results from the lander’s seven instruments are published in a special collection of papers in the journal Science.

    One team running a device called COSAC found no fewer than 16 organic compounds, four of which had not been known to exist on comets before.

    Prof Ian Wright of the Open University, who leads another instrument, Ptolemy, said the results were “really interesting”.

    “I see this cometary material that we’re analysing as frozen primordial soup. It’s the kind of stuff that if you had it, and warmed it up somehow, and put it in the right environment, with the right conditions, you may eventually get life forming out of it.

    “What we may be looking at here is our abiological ancestral material – this is stuff that went into the mix to produce life.

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  • Rosetta –

    One of Ptolemy’s most significant discoveries is of a compound known as polyoxymethylene, a string of relatively simple molecules forming a polymer of formaldehyde.

    Prof Wright said: “The simplest unit of this polymer is a single carbon, two hydrogens and a single oxygen, and this then repeats itself. That same ratio of elements occur in carbohydrates and sugars so it’s very interesting and implicated in the biological cycle we have on Earth.”

    In a separate paper, Fred Goesmann and colleagues describe the 16 compounds found by their COSAC instrument, and their possible importance for the development of life.

    Hydroxyethanal is “an efficient initiator in the prebiotic formation of sugars”, they write.

    And methanenitrile is “a key molecule in the prebiotic synthesis of amino acids and nucleobases and even offers an elegant pathway to sugars”.

    The authors conclude that the complexity of the comet’s chemical makeup, and the presence of organics containing nitrogen, “imply that early solar system chemistry fosters the formation of prebiotic material in noticeable concentrations”.

    None of the papers suggests the presence of more sophisticated compounds such as amino acids – though further analysis of the findings may yield that.

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  • A new video captures the moment Philae, Europe’s now-famous comet lander, first approached Comet 67P for its historic landing on 12 November last year.

    Philae acquired a series of still images with its Rolis descent camera.

    These pictures of the dusty, icy terrain were spaced 10 seconds apart, tracking the little probe’s descent from a height of 67m down to just 9m.

    Now, with the aid of visual effects, the Rolis sequence has been turned into a flowing, one-minute movie.

    It is run in real-time, thus giving a good sense of what it would have been like to ride down to the comet’s surface with Philae.

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  • Rosetta has continued to map the comet after the initial activity focussed on the lander. Analysis now shows the comet’s geological history.

    The rubber duck-shaped comet being followed by Europe’s Rosetta probe used to be two separate objects.

    Scientists say pictures of 67P show its two lobes to have “onion skin” layers that intersect in a way that can only be the result of two different bodies having collided and stuck together.

    The solution is now due to be published in the journal Nature.

    Mission team members have also held a media conference to give further details, at the European Planetary Science Congress in Nantes, France.

    Rosetta first spied the duck on approach to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in July 2014.

    The idea that it was a “contact binary” – two conjoined comets – was a popular explanation from the word go.

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