Scientists racing against time to keep the Philae comet lander operating are facing a tense decision on whether to take a last-ditch gamble and “hop” the probe to a new location.
After bouncing twice, the lander came to rest in the shadow of a cliff on the comet – meaning the solar panels designed to recharge its batteries have been rendered useless.
And with less than 24 hours to go before its primary battery power runs dry, mission controllers are actively considering taking the risk of using the probe’s landing gear to shift it to a sunnier spot.
British scientist Prof Ian Wright, one of the Philae’s leading investigators, said they had to weigh up whether to use the craft’s remaining power to try to move it, or to collect as many samples as possible in the time left.
The probe made a historic landing on comet67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday after a 10-year journey aboard the Rosetta spaceship.
Instead of the expected six or seven hours of sunlight per 12-hour day, Philae is only receiving one-and-a-half, which is not enough to keep it operational.