Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Good Night, Sweet Probe: Astronomers Say Farewell to Philae Comet Lander

by Devin Coldewey /

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

The time has finally come to say goodbye to the Philae lander, the first in history to land on a comet in transit — though with a rough touchdown that ultimately caused an early demise.

"Unfortunately, the probability of Philae re-establishing contact with our team at the DLR Lander Control Center is almost zero, and we will no longer be sending any commands," said Philae project manager Stephan Ulamec in a German Aerospace Center news release on Friday.

Philae was launched from the Rosetta probe in 2014 to land on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but a malfunction led to the craft bouncing across the landscape. It settled at last in a location poorly suited for charging its solar cells.

 This series of images captured over a 30-minute period by the Rosetta spacecraft's OSIRIS camera shows the Philae lander's journey as it approached and then rebounded from its first touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 12, 2014. ESA / Rosetta / MPS for OSIRIS Team

Related: Philae Lander's Data Reveal Surprising Details About Comet

During the 57 hours it operated on battery power, Philae performed valuable science and sent back unprecedented data — but it entered a hibernation state at that point, from which it only woke for one brief period in July 2015.

In January, the team announced that the end of that month would be the last time the lander might wake. Afterward, it would be too cold and dark to get enough power going. A last-ditch effort to shake the dust off the lander's panels does not appear to have succeeded, and the team has acknowledged that Philae is now beyond their reach.

Related: Alien Life on a Comet? Microbe Musings About Philae Spark Skepticism

Though disappointed, the team is upbeat about the fact that they made history.

"The Philae mission was one-of-a-kind — it was not only the first time that a lander was ever placed on a comet's surface, but we also received fascinating data," said German Aerospace Center chairman Pascale Ehrenfreund. "Rosetta and Philae have shown how aerospace research can expand humankind’s horizon and make the public a part of what we do."

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news

Have feedback?

How likely are you to recommend nbcnews.com to a friend or colleague?

0 = Very unlikely
10 = Very likely
Please select answer

Is your feedback about:

Please select answer

Leave your email if you’d like us to respond. (Optional)

Please enter a valid email address

Thank you!

Your feedback has been sent out. Please enjoy more of our content.

We appreciate your help making nbcnews.com a better place.