An unmanned European spacecraft is scheduled to wake up early Monday from a long nap and begin preparing for its next task, a rendezvous with a comet.
After more than two years of snoozing, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is programmed to awake from hibernation at 5 a.m. ET Monday in anticipation of an August meeting with its target, Space.com reported Sunday.
The Rosetta spacecraft will take about seven hours to warm up, operate its navigation gear and fire rocket thrusters to reposition itself. It is scheduled to transmit a message back to its European controllers.
It is located about 500 million miles from Earth, near Jupiter's orbit, and radio transmissions will take 45 minutes at the speed of light to reach listening stations in Australia and the United States, Reuters reported.
The agency said its ground control teams hope to have confirmation that the probe has resumed operations by early afternoon.
"The first opportunity for receiving a signal on Earth is expected between 17:30 GMT and 18:30 GMT (12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST)," the European agency said in a statement.
The Rosetta spacecraft launched in 2004 on a decade-long journey to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft is scheduled to take up orbit around the comet in August for more than a year and eventually place a small lander on the comet's surface.
The spacecraft, which has been hibernating to save power, carries the 220-pound lander called Philae. Only the probe's main computer and some heaters stayed on to keep it alive during its hibernation, ESA officials said.