57 hours after its landing on the comet 67P/G-C, the Philae lander has powered down after exhausting its battery life.
This happened a bit more quickly than planned, because Philae bounced twice after it landed, ending up in a shadowy crater, preventing its solar panels from much sunlight.
However, in terms of both scientific data and historical milestones, this mission was a huge success. In an extremely short time, the lander collected all sorts of information that will help us better understand the composition of comets. Additionally, the Rosetta orbiter will continue to orbit the comet for more than a year, collecting still more data.
Together, this research will help us better understand the solar system as a whole.
The latest news on Philae
When Philae landed, its harpoon system did not engage, leading the lander to take a few extremely long bounces, and ending up about a kilometer away from where scientists had planned. They’re still not exactly sure of its location, but hope to use high-resolution photos taken by the Rosetta orbiter to pinpoint it soon.
Because the lander came to rest in a shadowy crater, its solar panels were only about to collect about 90 minutes of sunlight every 12 hours, which meant the craft had to rely largely on its battery. Though ESA scientists used mechanical instruments on the craft to turn it slightly in hopes of getting more sunlight, the effort failed, and Philae powered down Friday evening (EST).
However, during its 57 hours of life on the comet, the craft successfully used all ten of its scientific instruments and gathered all sorts of data about its environment.
Perhaps the most exciting experiment was the plan to drill into the comet’s surface, collect a soil sample, and chemically analyze it. Due to the lander’s unstable position, it was uncertain whether this would be able to be carried out, but Philae successfully collected and analyzed a sample in its final hours, sending the data up to Rosetta.