London: Rosetta, the comet-chasing space probe launched by the European Space Agency a decade ago, has woken up from a 31-month long hibernation.
The mission operators heard from the distant spacecraft for the first time in 31 months Jan 20, said a press release from the European Space Agency (ESA).
Since its launch in 2004, Rosetta is chasing down a Comet named `67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko`.
Operating on solar energy, Rosetta was placed into a deep space slumber in June 2011 as it cruised out to a distance of nearly 800 million km from the warmth of the sun - beyond the orbit of jupiter, said the release.
Now, as Rosetta`s orbit has brought it back to within `only` 673 million km from the sun, there is enough solar energy to power the spacecraft fully again.
Still about 9 million-km from the comet, Rosetta`s pre-programmed internal `alarm clock` has woken up the spacecraft.
After warming up its key navigation instruments, Rosetta sent a signal to let mission operators know it had survived the most distant part of its journey.
“We have our comet-chaser back,” Alvaro Giménez, ESA`s director of science and robotic exploration, was quoted as saying.
“With Rosetta, we would take comet exploration to a new level,” he added.
Towards the end of May this year, the spacecraft would execute a major manoeuvre to line up for its critical rendezvous with the comet in August.