Rosetta spacecraft has stopped listening for Philae lander

illustration of Rosetta and Philae approaching comet 67/P

GOODBYE, PHILAE The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft (illustrated, upper left) will no longer listen for signals from the Philae lander, which has been silent since July 2015. 

ATG medialab/ESA

It’s time for a final farewell to the comet lander Philae.

The European Space Agency announced that on July 27 it would shut off the equipment that the Rosetta spacecraft uses to listen in on communications from Philae. The lander, which touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014, briefly transmitted data before entering a deep slumber.

Except for a brief awakening in June and July 2015, Philae has been silent ever since. Now, as the solar-powered Rosetta gets farther from the sun, scientists need to conserve power by shutting off nonessential equipment. So Rosetta will listen no more.

Rosetta will continue scientific operations around comet 67P for another two months before completing its mission, when it will join Philae, descending down onto the comet.

Physics writer Emily Conover has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. She is a two-time winner of the D.C. Science Writers’ Association Newsbrief award.

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