The Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is asleep on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and is likely to stay that way forever. It has failed to respond to the latest ESA commands and will soon be too far away from the sun and too cold to survive. Photo by UPI/ESA/Rosetta/CIVA... | License Photo
COLOGNE, Germany, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Philae lander has failed to respond to the latest communication attempts by engineers with the European Space Agency. Scientists with the Rosetta mission acknowledge that future communication with the lander is unlikely.
On November 12, 2014, the lander made history with the first soft landing on a comet. After ten years spent attached to the Rosetta probe, Philae detached, descended and successfully landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The lander and its instruments were able to begin a variety of scientific investigations. It even beamed back early results to Rosetta, but the lander's batteries were quickly drained and Philae had to go into hibernation mode. Having landed in an unplanned location, Philae was shielded from sun by a crater wall and unable to recharge via its solar panels.
As the comet moved closer to the sun over the summer, Philae was able to sporadically communicate with Rosetta. But the communication was short-lived and spotty. After the lander relayed a snippet of data on July 9, 2015, Philae once again went silent. It hasn't woken up since.
Now, researchers say that silence is likely permanent. Comet 67P is moving away from the sun and will soon be too far away and too cold for Philae to survive.
"On Sunday we tried to activate the Philae flywheel through blind commanding in an attempt to change Philae's position," a spokesman from DLR, the German Aerospace Centre, told reporters. "We have not gotten any feedback on its success."
Philae project manager Stephen Ulamec told Gizmodo they will continue to send signals to Philae in a last-ditch attempt to wake it up.
"We do not know whether either the command has not been received, or if there is not enough power at the lander, or whether the communications unit is damaged," Ulamec said.
Despite the continued efforts, optimism is waning and reality is setting in.
"We have to face reality, and chances get less and less every day as we are getting farther and farther away from the sun," Ulamec told New Scientist. "At some point we have to accept we will not get signals from Philae anymore."