Europe’s long-sleeping spacecraft, Rosetta, will be roused from its sleep to complete a mission that has been ongoing for several years. This coming Monday at 5AM EST, the spacecraft will awaken after a 2.5 year slumber ahead of a scheduled mission with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This follows its launch back in March 2004.
The first signal from the newly-awakened Rosetta is set to hit Earth by 12:30PM EST on Monday, putting it back into action after its pre-hibernation missions leading up to the June 2011 deep sleep. In those missions, the spacecraft performed four planetary flybys, three involving Earth and one involving Mars, as well as the imaging of two asteroids.
In May of this year, Rosetta will arrive at comet 67P near Jupiter, and begin studying it as the space rock makes it way towards the sun. When November rolls around, the spacecraft will then deploy a 220 pound lander, Philae featured above, onto the comet’s surface for an up-close-and-personal look at the mass. Drilling will be performed to a depth of 8-inches, followed by the collection of samples for study by the lander’s equipment.
Said the European Space Agency: “Rosetta will be the first mission ever to orbit a comet’s nucleus and land a probe on its surface. It will also be the first spacecraft to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the inner solar system, watching how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the sun.”