Rosetta comet chaser set to wake up on Monday after three years’ sleep | Science | The Guardian
This is an amazing story, lets hope it gets some coverage in the wider press Monday so we know if Rosetta wakes up.
At 10am GMT on Monday morning an alarm clock will rouse a snoozing spacecraft that is hurtling through the darkest reaches of the solar system. Launched 10 years ago, and in hibernation for the last three, the time for action has come at last.The European Space Agency\’s Rosetta probe aims for a spectacular first in space exploration. The billion-euro machine will catch up with a comet, circle it slowly, and throw down a lander to the surface. With gravity too weak to keep it there, the box of electronics and sensors on legs will cling to its ride with an explosive metal harpoon.Together, the Rosetta probe and its lander, Philae, will scan and poke the comet as it tears towards the sun. As the comet draws near, it will warm and spew huge plumes of gas and dust in a tail more than one million kilometres long. The spectacle has never been captured up close before.The comet, named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, formed from cosmic debris 4.6bn years ago, before material had coalesced to form the Earth and our nearest planets, and the sun was a newborn star. Even rocket scientists find the comet\’s name hard work. Some opt instead for \”Chury\”.By studying the comet – some of the most pristine and primordial material there is – scientists hope to learn more about the origins of the solar system. The presence of ice, and traces of organics, might hint at answers to other big questions: how Earth got its water and how life began. But first the spacecraft must wake up.Rosetta was put into hibernation in June 2011 when its trajectory took it so far from the sun – beyond the orbit of Jupiter – that light reaching its solar panels was too feeble to provide power. Mission scientists deliberately built in the dormant stage of its voyage, but the silence is still nerve-wracking. No one has heard from the spacecraft since.