The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft wiped the deep space equivalent of eye gunk from its startrackers on Monday and awakened from a 31-month slumber to prepare for the coolest part of its long mission — meeting up with and then attaching a probe to the surface of a comet as it cruises through our solar system.
Yes, it’s basically the plot of that terrible movie “Armageddon,” but on a harmless comet rather than an apocalyptic asteroid and with a charming robotic probe named Philae instead of Ben Affleck.
Originally launched in 2004, Rosetta spent years building up enough speed to reach its ultimate target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and checking out a few asteroids along the way. In 2011 it went into a hibernation mode with an alarm clock of sorts in its computer set to go off on January 20, 2014. It became apparent hours after that wake up process that it had been a success when the first signals from Rosetta in two and a half years were confirmed by both ESA and NASA on Monday.
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