Farewell Philae: Earth severs link with silent comet probe
Farewell Philae: Earth severs link with silent comet probe [S&T]
Earth bid a fi nal farewell to robot lab Philae, severing communications after a year- long silence from the pioneering probe hurtling through space on a comet.
Writing an extraordinary chapter in space history, the washing machine-sized craft was the fi rst to land on a comet — primeval rubble from the formation of the Solar System.
Philae sent home reams of data garnered from sniffi ng, tasting and prodding its new alien home hundreds of millions of kilometres (miles) from Earth.
But after more than 12 months without news, it was decided to preserve all remaining energy available to Philae’s orbiting mothership Rosetta, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced in a blog entitled: “Farewell, silent Philae”.
Rosetta will remain in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for another two months.
It will crashland on September 30 to join Philae in their fi nal resting place, concluding an historic quest for cometary clues to the origins of life on Earth.
Part of a 1.3-billion-euro ($1.4-billion) ESA mission, Philae was launched into space in March 2004, riding piggyback on Rosetta.
The pair travelled some 6.5 billion km (four billion miles) — aided by gravity boosts from Earth and Mars — before entering 67P’s orbit in August 2014. Three months later, Rosetta sent the 100-kg probe down to the comet surface — starting a nail- biting deep-space saga.
The ESS is the Electrical Support System on board Rosetta, used to send home the results of Philae’s science experiments and status reports.