Philae, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) comet lander, has sent its final tweet. Philae was the first craft to land on a comet (called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) back in 2014. The ESA shut down the only means of communicating with the comet lander at 11:00 a.m. Central European Time on Tuesday, 12 years after Philae and its chariot spacecraft Rosetta launched.
Philae’s mission was simple: Land on a comet moving almost 84,000 miles per hour, then discover if comets were responsible for bringing water and life to Earth during the early days of the solar system.
However, the voyage’s final leg ended in disarray. After a bumpy landing, including three pogo stick-like bounces over 110 minutes, Philae settled in a shady spot on 67P in November 2014. The comet lander, unable to charge its solar batteries, was only able to complete and send Rosetta 64 hours of experiments before its batteries died, forcing it into hibernation.
The data cemented several findings, such as asteroids and not comets brought water to Earth, and 67P is made of a hard crust covered in a light layer of ice and dust. But scientists thought that this would probably be the last they would hear from Philae.
Then, in June 2015, Philae said good morning. Its resumed contact, documented in an exchange of tweets, went viral. Despite its awakening, Philae was never able to send more data.
Philae’s radio silence isn’t the only news. Rosetta has started to power down too. It will fully turn off and land on 67P on September 30, completing its mission.
“No, we didn’t get everything we hoped for, but I can’t even list all the obstacles Philae overcame successfully,” Valentina Lommatsch, a member of the Philae lander team at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), told Nature.
Philae tweeted out one last request before saying goodbye: postcards from Earth. The DLR will accept photos and messages to Philae on social media platforms through August, using #GoodbyePhilae.