Hurray for Science! – Rosetta wakes up 800 million km away and says “Hello World!”

Comets – giant “dirty snowballs”, as some have called them – are believed to contain materials that have remained largely unchanged since the formation of the Solar System 4.6bn years ago.

Rosetta’s data should act therefore as a kind of time machine, to enable researchers to study how our local space environment has changed over time.

“We will sample the physical and chemical composition of the comet,” said Matt Taylor, Esa’s Rosetta project scientist.

“This will give us knowledge on how and where the comet was formed, and about its subsequent journey through the evolution of the Solar System.

“We can connect that as well to the formation of the planets themselves. And, in addition, the elemental make-up of the comet can be considered ‘star stuff’ – it will provide us knowledge of the formation processes within the Sun itself.”

Rosetta is being billed as the big space event of 2014, and it is clear from the general and social media reaction to Monday’s wake-up that interest in the mission is considerable.

“Science in general catches the public’s imagination,” said Thomas Reiter, Esa’s director of human spaceflight and operations.

“In general, we try to find answers to fundamental questions, such as where do we come from, what will be our destiny and will we have to stick to this planet?

“The knowledge we get from missions like Rosetta – which is now moving into a very interesting stage – gets us closer to answering those types of questions.”

Text excerpt from the BBC.

Some good background information in this video.

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