Originally published on December 12, 2013
The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe will be reactivated in January after more than two years of hibernation.
Launched on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2004, the spacecraft's mission is to collect information on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Scientists believe comets can help understand the origins of life on Earth, as comets have undergone very few changes for 4.6 billion years.
Until now, Rosetta has been on an epic journey in the space. The unmanned probe has orbited Earth three times, performed a slingshot around Mars and has also passed two asteroids.
The solar-powered spacecraft went into a low-power mode in 2011 when it ventured into the outer solar system and too far away from the sun. It terminated all communication with Earth during its hibernation.
With both the comet and Rosetta on return journeys back to the inner solar system, the spacecraft will be reactivated. Its star trackers will first be warmed up and its solar panels will adjust their positions to face the sun.
After determining its position, Rosetta will rotate towards Earth and send signals.
Researchers at European Space Agency told BBC that it would be "a nerve-wracking day", as it would take a few hours for the spacecraft to warm up.
Once Rosetta moves closer to the comet, it will capture images and deploy a lander named "Philae". Due the comet's weak gravity, the lander will use a harpoon to anchor itself on the comet's surface. Philae will be used to dig up samples for further analysis.
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