Rosetta's Philae comet lander is officially lost, scientists will no longer attempt contact

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Feb 14, 2016, 6:52 PM EST (Updated)

We already knew the European Space Agency was having a tough time getting in touch with its Philae lander, which is currently sitting on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and now the craft has officially been declared MIA.

The German Aerospace Center DLR announced Friday that it wouldn't send any more commands to the lander, as it seems the craft has run out of juice and will almost certainly not restart. The problems began shortly after landing in the fall of 2014, when Philae bounced off its intended landing site and came to rest in a heavily shaded area of the comet. For a device that largely relies on solar power, that proved to be a very big issue.

The team behind the mission has spent the past year trying to get Philae to respond to commands, and even tried telling it to move to a spot with better sunlight access (it didn’t work). When crossing near the sun didn’t even move the needle to revive the batteries, and with temperatures on the comet set to dip below -292 degrees Fahrenheit, it seems Philae is officially dead.

Project managers note they still have Rosetta’s sensors on, in case Philae sends off a signal, but they don’t believe any signal will be coming. Despite the setbacks, it’s important to remember that Philae is still a huge success. It was the first time humans ever landed something on a comet, and it came this close to working perfectly. The lander also did manage to send back a bit of info, too, before falling into its eternal sleep.

(Via The Washington Post)