ESA looking for Philae lander; Rosetta sends out ‘wake up’ signals

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The Philae lander has been MIA ever since its batteries ran out after it landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, but astronomers at European Space Agency (ESA) are still keeping their hopes up that the lander might just wake up and establish a comms link.

In a bid to re-establish, ESA put in efforts to contact the lander through its comet orbiting probe Rosetta.

On March 10, ESA Rosetta Mission tweeted: “Excited! I have some opportunities to listen for @philae2014 to find out if he’s awake!”

Two days after the tweet, Rosetta spacecraft, the lander’s mothership, started sending “wake up” call to Philae. It will continue sending the signals until March 20 with the hope that Philae may respond now as the Comet 67P/C-G has travelled closer to the sun than when it first landed on it.

There are hopes that it might get back to life and will start sending back data once its solar panels absorb enough energy to boost its battery power. Philae needs a total of 19 watts to begin communicating.

The space probe sent a lot of data from the surface of the comet, before it ran out of batteries in November 2014 as it couldn’t get in sunlight even after several attempts before falling silent. So, since last November, it has not streamed any data.

Philae’s primary mission was always designed to last around 60 hours on its initial battery charge but engineers covered the spacecraft in solar panels in the hope that sunlight could charge a set of secondary batteries and extend the mission for months.

Philae lander touched down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014 and became the first ever spacecraft to land safely on a comet after travelling through space for more than 10 years and covering a distance of some four billion miles.