A shadow falls across Comet 67P and the Philae lander….

Nature tries not to be *too* foreboding about the dark times ahead for Philae:

The Philae lander’s drill is now working, but the craft’s batteries — designed to power just 2.5 days of operations — are running low, Rosetta mission scientists said at a briefing today (14 November). Thus the craft, which landed on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November, could be entering its last hours of operations.

Drilling got under way, seemingly without drama, at around 13:40 Central European Time (CET). But soon after, Philae went into another communications blackout, due to rotation of the comet. If the lander’s batteries run out before the next communications window — after 22:00 CET this evening — data reaped from the subsurface sample are likely to be lost.

Commands that would have put Philae into an energy-saving mode unfortunately failed to transmit, Valentina Lommatsch of the German aerospace centre (DLR) said during the briefing. “It’s going to be really close as to whether we make it to the link or not.”

Currently, Philae can do nothing with the tiny amount of sunlight it is getting on a single solar panel. If the lander makes contact with the Rosetta orbiter this evening, scientists might try last-ditch efforts to get more power for Philae. These manoeuvres could include rotating the lander or even hopping Philae into a new position. “We’re hoping we can maybe bounce our way out, but it’s very unlikely,” said Lommatsch. “We’re throwing around ideas right now.”