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European Comet Lander 'Awake' After 7 Months

FILE - Rosetta’s lander Philae is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two CIVA images confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The image is a two-image mosaic, Nov. 13, 2014. (Courtesy: ESA)

The European Space Agency's comet lander has awakened after a seven month hibernation and communicated with Earth.

The German Aerospace Center says the lander, Philae, resumed communication for more than a minute late Saturday. The ESA says the probe sent about 300 packages of data to Earth via its mother ship Rosetta, which is orbiting the comet.

Key Moments During The Mission

Key moments during the mission:

March 2, 2004: Europe's unmanned probe Rosetta takes off from Kourou, French Guiana, after a series of delays, including an abandoned January 2003 launch window because of a rocket problem.

Feb. 25, 2007: Rosetta carries out a close flyby of Mars. European Space Agency's mission control breaks out in applause after the end of 15 tense minutes of radio silence as the craft passes behind the Red Planet.

Sept. 5, 2008:
Probe successfully passes close to an asteroid 402.3 million kilometers from Earth. The spacecraft loses its radio signal for 90 minutes as planned during the flyby of the Steins asteroid, also known as Asteroid 2867.

July 10, 2010: Between Mars and Jupiter, Rosetta transmits its first pictures from the largest asteroid ever visited by a satellite after it flies by Lutetia as close as 3,200 kilometers. It is the closest look to date at the Lutetia asteroid.

Jan. 20, 2014: Waking after almost three years of hibernation, Rosetta sends its first signal back to Earth. Systems had been powered down in 2011 to conserve energy, leaving scientists in the dark for 31 months.

Aug. 6, 2014: Rosetta swings alongside comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Nov. 12, 2014: The probe releases the Philae lander and it drops to the comet's surface. Seven hours later, Philae touches down on the comet.

Nov. 15, 2014: Philae goes into hibernation after performing experiments and sending data back to Earth for 60 hours.

Feb. 14, 2015:
Rosetta swoops to a distance of just six kilometers above the surface of the comet to take close-up pictures of the surface.

June 11, 2015:
Scientists say they may have caught a glimpse of Philae, whose exact location remains unknown. After analyzing images and other data collected over the past months they identified several possible sites including one bright spot described as "a good candidate for the lander.''

June 13, 2015: Philae communicates with Earth for the first time in seven months in a sign that it has come out of hibernation.

Philae became the first spacecraft to land on a comet when it touched down November 12, but it shut down three days later when its batteries were depleted and it was forced into hibernation.

Following a 10 year journey from Earth, Philae landed on the icy surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after separating from Rosetta.

ESA officials say the probe bounced on the surface of Comet 67P twice because its harpoons, which were designed to anchor Philae to the surface, failed to deploy.

Scientists say the probe settled at an angle in a dark ditch. They said they hoped as the comet drew closer to the Sun, better light would recharge Philae's batteries enough for it to reboot, make contact, and carry out a new series of experiments.

The ESA says the 100-kilogram lander has sent back "unprecedented images." The agency says the images show the surface of the comet covered by dust and debris ranging from millimeter to meter sizes, while panoramic views show layered walls of "harder-looking material."

Scientists hope the $1.6 billion project will help answer questions about the origins of the universe and life on Earth.

Comets date back to the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Scientists suspect impacting comets delivered water to the young Earth.

The ESA says the Comet is about 215 million kilometers from the Sun and 305 million kilometers from Earth, travelling at 31.24 kilometers a second. Rosetta and Philae have traveled an accumulated distance of 6.9 billion kilometers.

By August 13 the comet will reach its closest point to the Sun, called perihelion, before veering off again into the deeper reaches of space.

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