UPDATE: Rosetta woke up! Read our full story about the acquisition of signal here.
For the first time, a spacecraft will follow a comet as it approaches the Sun and land on its nucleus. But today is key to the success of the mission. After nearly two and a half years in hibernation, its time for Rosetta to wake up!
Rosetta has been soaring through the inner solar system for nearly a decade –flying past Mars and Earth several times and even briefly visiting a couple of asteroids. A special ‘hibernation mode’ for the spacecraft was designed by engineers to allow it to survive the large distances from the Sun during its cruise. Since it went into hibernation on June 9, 2011, Rosetta has orbited entirely on its own completely out of contact. But now the Rosetta spacecraft is finally entering the home stretch of its mission to orbit the 4-km-wide comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Watch live, above, as mission controllers at ESA await for a signal from the spacecraft. The Rosetta mission control team at ESOC is expecting to receive the signal between 17:30-18:30 UTC.
This highlight of the mission will take place in November 2014, when the small, autonomous daughter craft, Philae, lands on the comet itself, a feat never before accomplished.
Find out more about this mission in this video: