It was a historic moment when Philae touched down on comet 67P. Staying put, however, was a different matter, as the lander struggled, bouncing off to rest in the shadow of the comet's ice cliff before completely shutting down due to lack of power. But now that that 67P is getting closer to the sun, scientists are positive that Philae will be making comeback once it gets all the juice it needs to restart.
At the moment, Philae is only receiving uninterrupted sunlight for 4 hours and 33 minutes each day no thanks to the ice cliff. This just isn't enough to get the lander back on its feet. But as 67P gets closer to the sun, sunlight on the comet would become brighter and exposure would be longer, allowing Philae to get the five watts of power it needs to get back in business. Scientists estimate that 67P will be at its warmest in August but as early as February the lander should be able to benefit from the increased sun exposure.
The comet is just around 2.5 miles long and has weaker gravity by several hundred thousand times compared to the Earth's so it was understandable why the Philae had a less-than-perfect landing. But while the landing was not what mission scientists expected, it's turning out to be a lucky break.
This is because before the Philae shut down, it was able to capture its surroundings with its landing cameras, showing three different icy terrains. When the lander wakes up, scientists are eager to take samples of its immediate environment, hoping the dust and ice grains around Philae have been unaltered since the time the comet was formed.
"The material that we have ahead of us is certainly fantastic. We see the building blocks we are desperately looking for - icy material loaded with organics," said Jean-Pierre Bibring, lead scientist for the Philae lander.
But while mission scientists are confident that Philae will be coming back to work, they have yet to actually find the lander. They have a vague idea of where it is given a few images of Philae's landing was captured by the Rosetta spacecraft but an exact location has not been identified. When images from Rosetta's most recent campaign from Dec. 12 to 14 arrive, scientists hope there will clues about the lander's location.