Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rosetta probe survives 31-month deep sleep

ESA's comet chasing spacecraft has successfully woken up after hibernating for two-and-a-half years.

Launched by the European Space Agency in 2004, Rosetta has been on-course to a comet known as '67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko' where it will conduct a number of experiments and land a robot on the surface.

Due to the length of the trip and because the probe relies on solar rather than nuclear power, the spacecraft had been effectively 'put to sleep' for a period of 31 months to help conserve its energy.

Now after a long and agonizing wait scientists have finally received a signal to say that it has successfully awoken from its hibernation as it prepares for the final few months of its approach.

Rosetta's destination is a comet that is thought to be 4.6 billion years old and comes from a time before the Earth even existed and the sun was in its infancy. Scientists hope that by investigating the comet they will be able to find clues to help explain what took place in the earliest days of our solar system such as how the Earth and the other planets originally formed.