Comet scientists rule out Philae flyby


European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft has ruled out a special trip to find the lost Philae lander that went silent when its batteries ran out just days after its bumpy landing on the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

According to a post on the agency’s Rosetta blog, the team will stick with plans to fly over the body of the duck-shaped comet Feb 14, away from Philae.

“There is unlikely to be another opportunity for a dedicated lander search until later in the mission, possibly next year,” said Fred Jansen, Rosetta mission manager at ESA.

It has been almost three months since the ESA scientists heard the last peep from Philae that landed on the comet Nov 12 last year.

Amateur and professional planetary scientists have scoured pictures of 67P looking for signs of the lost lander, but its exact location remains a mystery.

Last month, mission scientists debated changing the manoeuvres that had long been planned for Rosetta, which is currently orbiting 67P.

Some hoped to switch Rosetta’s trajectory to launch a search for the lander from a distance of just six km above the comet.

Rosetta’s swoop at six km should generate bright, shadow-free images and high-resolution data about the comet’s composition, the blog read.

The scientists may yet get a glimpse of Philae.

“If Rosetta travels close to the likely location of the lander on one of its future scheduled flybys and if there is time, the team could take images of the area,” said ESA’s Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor.

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