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Comet probe awakens from slumber

AFP-JIJI

The European probe Rosetta woke up Monday after a 31-month hibernation in a nearly decade-old quest to explore a comet, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced.

“Hello, world!” ESA said on Twitter, mimicking the signal sent back from deep space by the billion-dollar unmanned craft.

The agency described Rosetta as a “sleeping beauty” that had emerged from a long sleep.

“It was a fairy-tale ending to a tense chapter,” it said.

Europe’s most ambitious space mission, the craft was launched in 2004 on a trek of 7 billion km around the inner solar system.

Its goal is to meet up in August with a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and in November send down a lander to carry out experiments on the icy wanderer.

Comets are clusters of ice and dust that are believed to be remnants from the very birth of our star system.

Analyzing this primeval stuff should unlock secrets of how the solar system formed — and possibly how life on Earth was kick-started.