Philae Lander in 'Idle Mode' on Comet Due to Lack of Solar Power
Scientists said Saturday that it could be days before they can reestablish communication with the Philae lander, the first probe to successfully land on a comet, and they may not be able to regain contact at all.
Lying in the shadow of a giant cliff on distant comet 67P, the probe went into "idle mode," as scientists attempted to move its solar panels to a better position to recharge its batteries.
Jonathan Hunt revealed on "America's News Headquarters" today that the probe Tweeted, "I'm feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap."
He explained it may never wake up from that nap because it is unable to recharge its solar batteries, as it is prevented from seeing the sun by the shadow of the cliff.
Scientists at the European Space Agency did manage to rotate the lander by about 35 degrees before it shut down, and they hope that may be enough to get the solar panels into sunlight, Hunt said.
According to scientists, the lander has already performed 56 hours of experiments and data collection, making the mission a tremendous success even if the probe never wakes up from its nap.
The main mission of the probe is to try to find clues about the origins of life on Earth, Hunt explained.
If the lander can get samples of the material beneath the surface of the comet, it might provide insight into whether comets brought the basic building blocks of life - organic matter and water - to earth.
Philae's drill was deployed yesterday to try to get samples of the comet, but it is not known at this point whether it completed drilling or if the drill even touched the ground.
Watch Hunt's report above and see NASA's Dr. Jim Green explain more in the clip below.