SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The team of scientists and engineers responsible for this fall's historic comet landing are confident Philae's current slumber is only temporary.
"I think within the team there is no doubt that we will wake up," lead lander scientist Jean-Pierre Bibring told reporters at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting, held this week in San Francisco. "And the question is OK, in what shape? My suspicion is we'll be in good shape."
The lander isn't necessarily dead, only out of juice. After a bouncy landing, Philae ended up in the shadow of a cliff at the edge of crater. Researchers quickly ordered the lander to begin collecting samples and taking measurements, but the science could only last so long. With little to no sunlight, Philae's solar panels weren't able to recharge its batteries.
But scientists with the European Space Agency are hopeful that as comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko's orbit sends it closer to the sun, Philae will be able to capture some extra rays and recharge. That could happen by February, Bibring says.
Should the lander awake, there's plenty of science left to do.
For now, mission scientists are simply working on locating Philae. Over the weekend, Rosetta -- the orbiting probe which first caught up with the comet before releasing Philae -- conducted several photo surveys in hopes of pinpointing the lander's coordinates. Those images are currently making their way through space back to ESA's mission control room in Germany.
"It's a bit like waiting for Christmas presents," said project scientist Matt Taylor. "That's basically the situation. I think the images have been taken, we're just waiting for them to come down."
Even if Philae never comes back to life, scientists say their mission was a success. Plus, there's still plenty of data to sift through. Rosetta's scientific mission is expected to last through December 2015.
"The science is only beginning," Taylor says. "The science teams are already overwhelmed."