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ESA's Rosetta probe in good health, Philae lander will sleep until March

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The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta space probe has just woken up after over2 years in hibernation mode at a distance of nearly half a billion miles from Earth. Why the sudden awakening? Simple: it's time to chase the target: Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, onto which it will land a smaller lander, named Rosetta.

The latest news from the ESA: everything is looking good, as Rosetta is operating according to plan. With Rosetta operating as it should, all attention is now focused on the Philae lander, which is set to awake in March.

If successful, this would be a first off its kind mission.

Rosetta awoke around noon yesterday, after spending roughly 2 ½ years in hibernation mode. Why? The craft's path through the solar system carried it to over 500 million miles from the Sun, which was too faraway for the solar energy to be adequate to power the craft. Now that Rosetta is slightly closer, it has woken up once again.

Speaking on the mission, Alvaro Giménez, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said that "we have our comet-chaser back . . . with Rosetta, we will take comet exploration to a new level."

Why the new level? To date, no probe has ever been landed on a comet before. In contrast, probes have deliberately been crashed into comets, most famously NASA's Deep Impact. A soft landing? That's new territory. According to the plan, Rosetta will land on the comet, analyze it with 10 instruments, and even drill into the comet's surface to better determine its composition.

If all goes according to plan, the probe will enter into orbit around the comet in August and Rossetta will land in November, culminating a 10-year mission that began with the craft's launch back in 2004.

For more info:
Universe Today
The ESA

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