Is 31 months enough sleep for a spacecraft? Or might it be too much?
The Chinese Yutu rover recently woke up from a two-week power-conserving sleep, but ESA’s Rosetta has been snoozing for a lot longer. If you’re a big geek like me, you’ll be checking the ESA’s livestream and Twitter feed throughout the course of the day to check on Rosetta’s status. There’s also a live blog on The Guardian’s website. It was supposed to rise and shine at 10:00 a.m. GMT, but we won’t have official word about whether that happened as scheduled until later this afternoon.
— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) December 3, 2013
Part of the delay in connecting with the Rosetta craft is because its star trackers have to warm up before it can communicate with mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, and that process takes upward of six hours. Factor in another 45 minutes for the signal to reach our fair planet and I think it’s fair to say that today will try the patience of the ESA, as the situation is completely out of their control at this point. According to The Guardian, today will hold for the ESA “seven hours of terror.” Fun!
Rosetta began its long sleep halfway through 2011. The solar-powered craft had moved toward Jupiter and needed to conserve energy as its orbit brought it close enough to the sun to power back up. Back in 2004, Rosetta started chasing comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It will resume that chase when it wakes up, and in November Rosetta is scheduled to get within a mile of the comet and drop its Phila lander to the comet’s surface. The lander will gather a bunch of images and information that will hopefully shed light on the formation of the solar system.