There is a strong chance Europe’s comet lander will wake up from hibernation as it nears the sun, raising hopes for a second series of scientific measurements from the surface next year, scientists have said.
The Philae lander, which became the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet last Wednesday, has already sent reams of data back to Earth that scientists are eagerly examining. But there were fears its mission would be cut short because it came to rest in the shadow of a cliff.
Shortly before its primary battery ran out, the European Space Agency decided to attempt to tilt the lander’s biggest solar panel towards the sun.
“We are very confident at some stage it will wake up again and we can achieve contact,” Stephan Ulamec, the lander manager, said.
That should happen next spring, when Philae and the comet it is riding on, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, get closer to the sun, warming up a secondary battery on board.
A few days of sunshine on the panels should be enough to charge the battery sufficiently to conduct science runs, said Mr Ulamec.
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