The Philae lander on comet 67/P has sent back another burst of data back to the Rosetta mission in Germany before switching itself on standby.
The device, which is about the size of a washing machine, has run low on battery after settling against a cliff. Although the robot hit the centre of its intended landing zone on Wednesday, it then bounced twice before coming to a stop.
The deep shadows from the comet’s rocky formation mean the solar panels designed to recharge Philae’s batteries cannot get enough light.
This means the most recent data may well be the last, at least for a while.
— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 15, 2014
The BBC reported that only 1.5 hours of sunshine fell on the robot – insufficient to charge the batteries.
Stephan Ulamec, the landers manager, said “Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence.
“This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.”
Professor Mark McCaughrean, senior scientific adviser to the ESA, told BBC Radio 5 live they were “hugely happy”.
He said: “All of the science instruments on board have done all the work they were supposed to do so we have huge amounts of data back on the ground now, which is really exciting.”
This is by no means a permanent shut down of Philae.
Prof McCaughrean added: “Philae could come back later as we move closer to the sun, and we get more light onto the solar panels up against the cliff we’re at here in the shadows.”
The lander will stay on the comet, which scientists say is more rubber-duck shaped than they originally imagined, as it travels on its elliptical orbit.
But whatever happens to Philae, Rosetta will continue to make its remote observations of 67P.