There was a moment of silence, and then the room erupted. Two hundred scientists, engineers and journalists threw their arms in the air, cheered, and bear-hugged their nearest neighbours, whether they knew them or not.
Many had waited a decade for this. In 2004, the
The radio signal from
In a time when every spacecraft worth its salt has a Twitter account, the inevitable message followed from @Esa-Rosetta. It was brief and joyful: "Hello, world!"
Speaking to the crowd at Darmstadt,
Just 10 minutes before, he'd been facing an uncertain future career. If the spacecraft had not woken up, there would have been no science to do and the role of project scientist would have been redundant.
The comet hunter had been woken by an internal alarm clock at
In the event, the missive was late. Taylor had been hiding his nerves well, even joking about the wait on Twitter, but when the clock passed
Then the flood of relief when the blip on the graph appeared. "I told you it would work," said Taylor with a grin.
The successful rousing of the distant probe marks a crucial milestone in a mission that is more spectacular and ambitious than any the
The comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, is 4km wide, or roughly the size of
"With Rosetta, we will track the evolution of a comet on a daily basis and for over a year, giving us a unique insight into a comet's behaviour and ultimately helping us to decipher their role in the formation of the solar system," said Taylor.
The mission ahead promises a spectacular demonstration of relative motion that could only be improved by the accompaniment of The Blue Danube. The comet is travelling at 60,000 kilometres per hour relative to the sun, but
On 11 November, mission controllers aim to give the spacecraft the all clear to drop off the 100kg lander.
The lander is expected to take one or two hours to reach the comet, another move that will play out at walking pace as the comet,
If Philae touches down safely, it will beam back a panorama of its extraordinary environment, along with high resolution images of the face of the comet. Though Philae is expected to die when its electronics overheat from use, the lander may hold fast to the comet and ride it around the sun for three laps before enough material breaks off to dislodge its harpoon.
"We will face many challenges this year as we explore the unknown territory of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises, but today we are just extremely happy to be back on speaking terms with our spacecraft," said Taylor.
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Scientists celebrate in Darmstadt as
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