We all worry about waking up in time for work at some point in our lives, but hopefully none of us will ever be in the position where our alarm clock was primed over two-and-a-half years and there’s a billion Euro mission riding on whether you wake up or not!
That’s the situation the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is facing, at any rate. Launched ten years ago to study a comet with the less-than-romantic monicker of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (George Lucas eat your heart out!) the probe aims to catch up with the comet and deliver a lander dubbed Philae to its surface. Once anchored, Philae will scan the comet as it approaches towards the sun, and hopefully deliver images and information that have never been seen before and may prove of incredible value to scientists seeking to find out more about how life is formed in the trackless vacuum of space.
Rosetta was put into hibernation in June 2011 when its trajectory took it so far from the Sun – well beyond the orbit of Jupiter – that the necessary sunlight reaching its solar panels was too feeble to provide power. At 10am today, ESA mission control will nervously attempt to wake their sleeping beauty up.
You can follow developments as they happen via the ESA website here, as well the full details behind the mission and its background. And if you’re interested in space exploration, don’t forget that we hold a large range of material about space flight and the history of astronautics, including access to NASA’s Scientific & Technical Information (STI) web site among our extensive array of Aeronautical databases.
Rosetta Mission Logo copyright European Space Agency.