Don’t write off Philae just yet. The little lander could wake up as soon as February. Lack of sunlight is the problem right now, but that is expected to change over the next few months.
The European Space Agency’s mission to comet 67P was one of the coolest moments of 2014. Philae’s landing on the comet was a bit bumpy though. Anchoring harpoon failed to fire and Philae bounced off the comet. After two hours soaring above the comet, Philae came to rest with one of its three landing feet planted on the comet. The other two were angled between two shadowed cliffs.
Here’s a picture of Philae bouncing off the comet during its initial landing.
And, here’s a picture of the cliffs blocking its sunlight. The glare is the reflection of the spacecraft.
Finally, this image shows Philae’s positioning. Note how two of its legs appear in the air.
Waking Phiale Up
Right now, Philae doesn’t get enough sunlight to boot up its computer. But, scientists are optimistic better sunlight conditions are just a few months away.
“I think within the team there is no doubt that we will wake up,” lead Philae scientist Jean-Pierre Bibring said at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall meeting in San Francisco according to CBS News. “And the question is OK, in what shape? My suspicion is we’ll be in good shape.”
Bibring says Philae needs 5 watts to reboot its systems. Another 5-7 will be needed for experiments. Optimistic predictions has Philae waking up in February. By April or May, Philae should definitely have enough sunlight as the comet races towards the sun.
“It really depends on how the sun will go over the local horizon. The total energy we need is something like 15 watts, which is less than what you have in your fridge (light),” Bibring said.
ESA scientists should have a better idea when Philae could get the sunlight it needs over the next few weeks. Rosetta and its OSIRIS instrument have been on the hunt for Philae’s exact locations. The current set of images are on their way to Earth, and should include Philae’s exact landing spot.
The Philae lander still has major obstacles ahead. Scientists won’t know how bad the extreme cold temperatures have affected the lander until they try to boot it up.
After Philae’s crazy landing, I think luck is firmly on its side.