Comet Chaser Rosetta Phones Home
January 20, 2014

Rosetta Wakes Up From 31 Month Long Slumber

[ Watch the Video: Rosetta Has Awoken! ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Monday that its Rosetta spacecraft has finally woken up after its long deep space slumber.

The comet chaser phoned home on Monday afternoon for the first time in 31 months. Rosetta is now just months away from its final destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

“We have our comet-chaser back,” Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said in a statement. “With Rosetta, we will take comet exploration to a new level. This incredible mission continues our history of ‘firsts’ at comets, building on the technological and scientific achievements of our first deep space mission Giotto, which returned the first close-up images of a comet nucleus as it flew past Halley in 1986.”

[ Watch the Video: Rosetta Calls Home ]

ESA said that after Rosetta warmed up its key navigation instruments, it came out of a stabilized spin and aimed its main radio antenna at Earth. After this, the spacecraft sent a signal back to Earth to let mission operators know it had survived its distant journey.

“This was one alarm clock not to hit snooze on, and after a tense day we are absolutely delighted to have our spacecraft awake and back online,” Fred Jansen, ESA’s Rosetta mission manager, said in a statement.

Rosetta will be spending the next few months checking out its instruments and getting ready to fall into orbit with comet 67P. Health checks on the spacecraft will be completed first, followed by turning on and testing out the eleven instruments on the orbiter and ten on the lander.

“We have a busy few months ahead preparing the spacecraft and its instruments for the operational challenges demanded by a lengthy, close-up study of a comet that, until we get there, we know very little about,” Andrea Accomazzo, ESA’s Rosetta operations manager, said in a statement.

[ Watch the Video: Rosetta Orbiting The Comet ]

Rosetta will be snapping its first images of the comet in May when the spacecraft is still 1.2 million miles away from 67P. At the end of May Rosetta will make a critical maneuver to get itself in line for rendezvous with the comet. After rendezvous, Rosetta will start two months of extensive mapping of the comet’s surface, and will begin collecting intel about it.

"All the instruments aboard Rosetta and the Philae lander are designed to work synergistically," Sam Gulkis of JPL, the principal investigator for the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter, said in a statement. "They will all work together to create the most complete picture of a comet to date, telling us how the comet works, what it is made of, and what it can tell us about the origins of the solar system."