Comet-chasing probe wakes up after 3 years

2014-01-20 20:50
The ESA probe Rosetta with Mars in the background. (C Carreau,  AFP/ ESA)

The ESA probe Rosetta with Mars in the background. (C Carreau, AFP/ ESA)

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Berlin - A comet-chasing space probe that has been in hibernation for almost three years has woken up and sent its first signal back to Earth.

The European Space Agency received the all-clear message "Hello World!" from its Rosetta spacecraft about 800 million km away shortly after 19:00. (18:00 GMT).

Rosetta was put into hibernation in 2011 to conserve energy for its long journey to meet with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

If all goes as planned the probe will rendezvous with the comet in the coming months and drop a lander onto its icy surface in November.

Dormant systems on the unmanned spacecraft have been switched back on in preparation for the final stage of its decade-long mission to rendezvous with the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

"I think it's been the longest hour of my life," said Andrea Accomazzo, the spacecraft's operations manager at ESA's mission control room in Darmstadt, Germany. "Now we have it back."

Scientists will now take control of Rosetta again, a procedure slowed by the 45 minutes it takes a signal to travel to or from the spacecraft, he said.

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