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A European probe has begun drilling into a comet to collect scientific data, but mission controllers said Friday that battery issues may make it impossible — at least for now — to access that information. The Philae lander on Wednesday became the first spacecraft to touch down on a comet and has since sent its first images from the surface of the body, known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But two harpoons that should have anchored the washing machine-sized Philae to the surface did not properly deploy when it hit the comet. That caused the lander to bounce off the comet and drift through the void for two hours before touching down again. After a second, smaller bounce, scientists believe it came to rest in a shallow crater on the comet's 2½-mile (4-kilometer)-wide body, or nucleus. European Space Agency mission control still has not been able to locate the probe, but it's believed to be next to a cliff that is blocking sunlight from its solar panels. That means the probe has been operating on battery power, which is expected to soon run out. Philippe Gaudon, an ESA project manager, said that by using that power, Philae was able to successfully deploy its drill and bore 25 centimeters (about 10 inches) into the comet's surface to start collecting samples.
- Philae Probe Sends Back First Photo From Surface of Comet
- Philae Probe Transmits Data From Comet 317 Million Miles Away
- Comet Update: What's Next for the Philae Lander?
--- The Associated Press