The DLR space agency says its final farewell to the Philae lander

dlr says goodbye to philae philaelanderupdate
The Philae lander’s cosmic legacy officially comes to a close this week as the German space agency DLR announced it would cease communication with the comet-riding probe. Though not entirely surprising — the agency feared last month it would soon come to this — the team at DLR did spend the better part of the last few weeks sending commands to the dormant probe via its companion Rosetta spacecraft. Due in large part to plummeting temperatures and an accumulation of dust, Philae failed to pick up on Rosetta’s commands forcing the space agency to effectively discontinue its transmission efforts. For the rest of eternity (most likely), Philae will be a permanent resident of Comet 67P.

As Philae essentially hunkers own for its life-spanning hibernation, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe still plans on orbiting the comet to collect data until this coming September. While monitoring 67P, the ESA also intends to allow the craft to periodically search for signals from the lander in the event it decides to miraculously wake up — the DLR thinks the chances this happens are nearly zero, however. Additionally, Rosetta plans on executing a flyby of the comet sometime this coming summer where it will capture a few final photos of the lander which scientists hope will allow them to better understand the data Philae collected.

Photo of Philae's landing spot
Photo of Philae’s landing spot European Space Agency

“When we see how Philae is positioned, we will be able to better interpret certain data, such as the measurements of the CONSERT radar experiment,” says DLR planetary scientist Ekkehard Kuhrt. “We have acquired a great deal of new information, but we are still far from a final understanding. The analysis of the data will continue for several years.”

When the mission comes to an end this September, the Rosetta spacecraft will also attempt to successfully land itself on the orbiting comet. In roughly six years, scientists say Comet 67P will once again circle back near Earth while also orbiting the sun once more. However, the ESA and DLR did not specify whether or not the solar energy consumed during this pass would allow Philae to wake from its cold, deep slumber, but did say (with overwhelming emphasis) that the Philae mission was a positive experience and useful lesson.

“Although some measurements could not be carried out, overall, Philae was a success,” Kuhrt continues. “We ended up in an unknown environment and for the first time ever, gathered scientific data from a comet’s surface, which we were able to complement with measurements from the orbiter. We can better adapt future missions to conditions on a comet.”

Despite their impending eternal slumbers, the Philae and Rosetta mission provided researchers unprecedented access to one of outer space’s biggest mysteries. Be it finding evidence of the building blocks of life or gathering samples and tweeting, the sum of its achievements are no doubt a massive victory for all those involved.

Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

There’s a new lab-grown meat startup on the block — and it has a secret weapon

Aleph Farms is developing lab-grown steaks with the same flavor, shape, texture, and structure as the real thing using beef cells isolated from living cows. Coming soon to a store near you?
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.