Farewell "Phil": the hunt for the lost traces of the Rosetta descent vehicle


The European Space Agency will abandon attempts to contact Phil lost (Philae - Rosetta descent vehicle), which unexpectedly roughly landed after its launch 16 months ago from the surface of the orbital floating base of Rosetta.

Instead of “harpooning” himself to the surface of the comet 67R Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Phil bounced off several times before he hit the cliff.

The probe passed through an automated three-day series of scientific experiments and managed to transmit a signal to Earth before its batteries lost their operation.

The ground control team attempted to reestablish contact with the descent vehicle in the hope of continuing subsequent missions. Fila was designed to analyze materials found on the surface of the comet and in the depths, so that it became possible to compare them with the data collected by Rosetta, which is still in orbit 67P.

Scientists were thrilled when they managed to pick up the Fillet signal last summer, but the management team could never keep in touch long enough to get Phil back to work. The reason most likely lies in the failure of the transmitter of the landing module, reported in the ESA (European Space Agency).

The last contact with Fillet took place on June 13th. At this time, the comet passes the orbit of Mars, the temperature on the surface of which reaches almost minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius) at night. The descent vehicle was designed to withstand low temperatures in the region of minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit (-50 degrees Celsius).

If Phil landed at his original landing site, the apparatus would have more access to sunlight, which could sufficiently charge the batteries. But there is also a possibility that Phil will overheat, as the comet approached the Sun in March last year.

“Unfortunately, the chances that Phil will be able to restore contact with our team are practically nil, and we will no longer send any commands,” said project manager Stefan Ulamek from the German Aerospace Center.

“At the moment we plan to keep the receivers on the orbiter as long as there is no power supply that would restrain the Rosetta. There is no reason to turn them off, ”wrote Ulamek in Discovery News e-mail.

“There is a very low probability that we will be able to hear the signals from the landing module again ... but we continue to listen,” he added.

Ulamek said that only the descent vehicle could provide “ground control” for the composition of the comet. The fillet found organic molecules on the 67P surface and sent high-resolution photographs that allowed scientists to evaluate the physical properties of the surface materials. “You cannot do this from orbit,” said Ulamek.

The fillet radar tool was able to measure the internal structure of the comet, which turned out to be highly porous. Even unpredictable fillet jumps on the 67P surface have valuable scientific insights. For example, this means that the comet lacks an electromagnetic field.

The fillet was unable to accomplish everything that the scientists hoped for, including the accumulation of soil samples for chemical analysis.

The analysis from both Phil's missions continues, as Rosette’s mission continues.

Scientists hope that they will be able to get an overview of the descent vehicle on the comet's surface this summer, when Rosette moves for another round of close flights.

“We finally ... will be able to find Phil and decide on the following actions,” said Rosetta operations manager Sylvain Lodiot in a press release.

Understanding how and where Phil is located will help scientists interpret some of the data for retransmission with the landing module during its 60-hour mission.

Fila will eventually be buried on the surface of the comet by Rosetta. This will be a permanent testimony of an unprecedented journey.

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