Waking up after almost three years of hibernation, a comet- chasing spacecraft sent its first signal back to Earth on Monday, prompting cheers from scientists who hope to use it to land the first space lander onto a comet.
In keeping with the agency's effort to turn the tense wait for a signal into a social media event, the probe triggered a series of "Hello World!" tweets in different languages.
Dormant systems on the unmanned spacecraft were switched back on in preparation for the final stage of its decadelong mission to rendezvous with the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Systems had been powered down in 2011 to conserve energy, leaving scientists in the dark about the probe's fate until now.
Because of the time it took
"I think it's been the longest hour of my life," said
Scientists will now take control of
The wake-up call is one of the final milestones for
The lander will dig up samples and analyze them with its instruments.
Although the spacecraft was launched almost a decade ago, the instruments aboard
The institute developed a specialized camera called ALICE that can detect different chemicals in the comet.
Scientists hope the space mission will help them understand the composition of comets and thereby discover more about the origins and evolution of our solar system.