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Farewell, Philae: Historic Comet Lander to be Switched Off Forever

by Alyssa Newcomb /
Image: A ESA handout photo taken by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera shows the Philae lander after separation
The Philae lander heads to the surface of a comet after after separation from spaceship Rosetta on Nov. 12, 2014.ESA via Reuters

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Philae, the trailblazing, space-exploring robot that made history when it landed on a speeding comet, bids a final farewell to Earthlings on Wednesday.

The European Space Agency said earlier this week in a blog post that it would turn off a communications system on Rosetta, Philae's companion spacecraft, severing Earth's line of communication to the lander.

A CIVA handout image shows a probe named Philae after it landed safely on a comet, known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
A probe named Philae is seen after it landed safely on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. REUTERS/ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA/Handout via ReutersREUTERS

The decision to say goodbye to Philae today will allow Rosetta to conserve energy for its final science missions before the orbiter ends its mission by slamming into the comet on September 30.

Philae, which gave humanity its closest look yet at a comet, hasn't communicated with Rosetta since July 9, 2015. However, the lander's Twitter account still took a moment to share a heartfelt goodbye with its 448,000 followers.

The European Space Agency said it kept Rosetta's Electrical Support System, which is used to communicate with Philae, switched on in the event the probe would wake up. But the probe remained silent.

Philae landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12, 2014, marking the culmination of a 10-year, four-billion-mile journey atop the Rosetta spacecraft.

The washing machine-sized robot, which ran on solar power, bounced twice before landing in a shady area, making it difficult for the lander to fully charge its solar panels.

Read More: Philae Lander's Data Reveal Surprising Details About Comet

The decade-long mission was launched to look for new insights into how the solar system formed and life began on Earth.

One of the most surprising findings challenged the theory that water was brought to Earth by comets. Rosetta's instruments analyzed the signature of water vapor on 67P and determined the comet's water wasn't a match for the structure of Earth's H2O.

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