Rosetta space probe to wake up for encounter with comet

Frankfurt, Germany, Jan 20 (EFE).- The Rosetta probe was set to wake up Monday after nearly three years in energy-saving hibernation to prepare for its encounter with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency said.

Controllers at the ESA's European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, expected to know soon whether the probe was still functioning and remained on course to intercept the comet in May.

Launched March 2, 2004, from the Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana, Rosetta ventured as far as 800 million kilometers (497 million miles) before heading back toward the interior solar system to rendezvous with Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The probe will be "the first to attempt a landing on a comet's surface, and the first to follow a comet as it swings around the Sun," the ESA said.

Rosetta is to measure the comet's magnetic field and take soil samples in pursuit of greater understanding of the origins of the solar system and of the origins of life on Earth.