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Comet-probing robot to wake from hibernation for landing

Published on Mar 26, 2014 11:01 AM
 
An artist's impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY 

PARIS (AFP) - A fridge-sized robot lab hurtling through the Solar System aboard a European probe is about to wake from hibernation and prepare for the first-ever landing by a spacecraft on a comet.

The delicate operation, starting Friday, marks the next phase in the European Space Agency's billion-dollar mission to explore one of these ancient wanderers of our star system.

Sent to sleep in 2011 to save energy, the lander will start a weeks-long process of progressively waking up, checking and updating its systems ahead of its historic rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Dubbed Philae, the 100kg lander carried by the Rosetta spacecraft is the scientific star in a mission that has already taken 10 years and a seven-billion-km trek around the inner Solar System.

 
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