"This is the best news I've heard since we lost contact with SOHO" says Roger Bonnet, ESA's director of science. "We should just hope that the damage sustained by SOHO's enforced period of deep freeze does not affect the scientific payload too much."

SOHO is a $1 billion joint venture between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA to observe the Sun in unprecedented detail. Scientists were hoping to extend SOHO's life until 2003 to cover an upcoming period of maximum solar activity. However, contact with the craft was lost on June 25 when a programming error caused the craft to spin out of control.