There were scenes of jubilation at the European Space Agency mission control in Darmstadt, Germany when they received a ‘Hello World’ message from the Rosetta space probe on Monday, confirming that it was awake after two and a half years of hibernation.

The mission launched back in 2004 is now approaching the final stage of its decade-long mission to rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. If all goes to plan, Rosetta will reach 67P in the coming months and position itself in orbit around the comet where it will photograph the surface and select a landing site for its lander probe due to be deployed in November. The comet’s low mass means that it has negligible gravity so the Philae lander will use harpoons and ice anchors to clamp it to the surface. If all else fails a small thruster will keep it pressed onto the surface. The lander will dig up samples and analyze them with its on-board instruments.

Comets are thought to have been silently orbiting our solar system for about 4.6 billion years. By studying the comet's dust and gas, Rosetta will give scientists insights into the evolution of the solar system. Many have speculated that the Earth’s early encounters with comets may have seeded it with water.