In feat of technology, Rosetta phones home

This artist\'s rendition provided by the European Space Agency shows the comet-chasing probe Rosetta signalling back to Earth after 957 days of hibernation. Rosetta completed the feat Monday. (European Space Agency)

WASHINGTON – Wow. You could not have scripted a Hollywood scene any better than how Rosetta’s much anticipated call to home went Monday.

The spacecraft was to send a signal a half billion miles back to Earth between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. to indicate that Rosetta had awakened from a 957-day slumber (see my story from Sunday).

With each passing minute after 1:00 p.m., you could feel the tension building in the European Space Agency’s Operations Room. All eyes, including mine, and almost 12,000 others watching via a livestream, were glued to the monitor showing the signal from NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas. The mostly flat signal never showed the much anticipated spike until 1:18 p.m.


This image released by the European Space Agency shows a spike in the signals coming from NASA’s network of space antennas, representing the signal from Rosetta, Monday. (European Space Agency)

That was when I noticed an obvious spike in the background signal, which moments later ESA Ops confirmed by shouts, applause and cheers. Rosetta had indeed woken up, aligned herself with the energy of the sun and phoned home.

The power of technology was on display with Rosetta enduring so much to come back to life. But so was the power of the internet and social media. People around the world shared in the experience live and with each other. I am pleased to say that in my Twitterverse, I was the first to report the “audio spike heard around the world” from Rosetta.

ESA will check the health of Rosetta and prepare her for a very busy time. We’ll be following her all the way until the mission ends in December 2015.

Way to go ESA and Rosetta!

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