A burst of sunshine in the spring could be just the wakeup call for Europe’s comet lander.
Scientists raised hopes Monday that as the Philae lander nears the sun its solar panel-powered battery will recharge, and the first spacecraft to land on a comet will send a second round of scientific data back to Earth.
Since landing with a bounce on the comet Wednesday, Philae has already sent back reams of data that scientists are eagerly examining. But there were fears its mission would be cut short because it came to rest in the shadow of a cliff. Its signal went silent Saturday after its primary battery ran out.
“We are very confident at some stage it will wake up again and we can achieve contact,” Stephan Ulamec, the lander manager, told The Associated Press.
That should happen next spring, when Philae and the comet it’s riding on — called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — get closer to the sun, warming up a secondary battery on board and bringing it out of its hibernation.