Nov 19, 2018 | Updated: 03:14 AM EDT

Philae Lander Takes a Nap, As ESA Fights Against the Clock

Nov 15, 2014 06:52 PM EST

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It's been a 310 million mile journey from the Earth to its destination Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, so what does the famed Philae lander probe do once it's made history by being the first to touch down on the surface of a speeding comet? The answer may surprise you.

While you'd think the little lander would be eager to get to work after spending a decade in space preparing for its mission, it turns out that the Philae lander's first order of business was to catch a couple of z's once it made the safe trip onto comet 67P.

"I'm feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap" said the European Space Agency's (ESA) post on the Philae lander's official Twitter account late Friday evening , Nov. 14. "My #lifeonacomet has just begun @ESA_Rosetta. I'll tell you more about my new home, comet #67P soon... zzzzzz."

And while the pun-filled cryptic tweets are the ESA's way of communicating all's well with the Philae mission now, it hasn't been off to a flawless start. After missing its intended landing spot, the ESA lost contact with Philae Wednesday morning when the lander touched down, but then bounced twice off of the rocky surface.

Ultimately, the Philae lander settled in a new location, has anchored itself to the surface, and images transmitted indicate that the spacecraft landed in the shadow of what likely is a cliff on Comet 67P.

"Against the odds, with no downward thruster and with the automated harpoon system having not worked, the intrepid Philae lander touched down a total of three times on the comet before coming to a final resting place on Wednesday" spokespersons from the ESA said in a press release on Friday, Nov. 14. "While the search for the final landing site is still ongoing, the lander is racing against the clock to meet as many of the core science goals as possible before the primary battery is exhausted."

But with an obstructed view, and a shadow that shields the lander from a large amount of direct sunlight, researchers fear that the secondary batteries will not last very long after the primary batteries give out. Intended to operate on solar power, the shaded landing spot further complicated researchers' plans, and the ESA expects that the Philae lander will shut down as early as Saturday afternoon, barring a sudden charge of sunlight.

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