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Time is running out for the comet lander Philae, which has been in hibernation since July 9 last year. For scientists, every moment without contact with the sleeping space probe means coming closer to losing it completely.

This is why the European Space Agency (ESA) is doing all its best to wake up the long-silent comet lander. European scientists will transmit a signal into space on Sunday, Jan. 10, to try to nudge Philae back to life and hopefully restore contact.

"There is a small chance. We want to leave no stone unturned," said Cinzia Fantinati, operations manager from DLR or the German Aerospace Center's Philae control team.

Last Chance To Wake Up Philae

ESA and DLR experts said there are several possibilities as to what Philae's condition on the comet is.

Philae may just be too dusty to power on, so the DLR team plans to take advantage of Philae's momentum wheel called "flywheel" and command it to spin. The flywheel is a device that stabilized the comet lander's descent to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

"At best, the spacecraft might shake dust from its solar panels and better align itself with the sun," said Koen Geurts, Philae technical manager at DLR's lander control center.

Currently, comet 67P is moving away from the sun, travelling at a speed as fast as 135,000 kilometers (83,885 miles) per hour. At the end of January, the conditions on the comet will be unsuitable for Philae.

Comet 67P will be more than 186 million miles away, making the temperature levels on the surface drop to negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The DLR team said this is too cold for Philae's equipment to operate.

Aside from the possibility that Philae might be too dusty, scientists think that one of Philae's two transmitters and one of its receivers have failed. The other transmitter and receiver apparently do not function smoothly, either.

Source: Techtimes

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