Comet-chasing probe sends signal to Earth

FRANK JORDANS
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FILE - This image provided by the European Space Agency ESA shows an artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image is not to scale; the Rosetta spacecraft measures 32 m across including the solar arrays, while the comet nucleus is thought to be about 4 km wide. Scientists at the European Space Agency are expecting their comet-chasing probe Rosetta to wake from almost three years of hibernation at 11 a.m. Monday Jan. 20, 2014 (1000 GMT; 5 a.m. EST) and phone home to say all is well. (AP Photo/ESA, C.Carreau, File)

BERLIN (AP) — A comet-chasing space probe that has been in hibernation for almost three years has woken up and sent its first signal back to Earth.

The European Space Agency received the all-clear message "Hello World!" from its Rosetta spacecraft some 800 million kilometers (500 million miles) away shortly after 7 p.m. (1800 GMT; 1 p.m. EST).

Rosetta was put into hibernation in 2011 to conserve energy for its long journey to meet with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

If all goes as planned the probe will rendezvous with the comet in the coming months and drop a lander onto its icy surface in November.