Science & Astronomy
11. November 2014

Comets have been visited by scientific spacecraft for a long time, but what is going to happen tomorrow will be something that has never been attempted before: to actually make a soft landing on a comet’s nucleus. ESA‘s Rosetta Spacecraft has already been orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (better known as Churry-Gerry) since August after a ten-year-journey and on Wednesday, November 12th, its Philae Lander will hopefully set down on the comet shortly after 5pm CET. I’m not going to write much more about the mission here because there are better articles about it everywhere else, but instead I want to give just a few tips how to follow tomorrow’s events.

• Both NASA and ESA will provide live video from the event, with the ESA Livestream having already started today on 20:00 CET for 24 hours and NASA TV providing occasional coverage. The ESA stream has also been embedded on the Rosetta Homepage now.

Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Society is in Darmstadt at the ESA control center to cover the landing. She has already posted her immensly detailed Landing Timeline which really has all the information about what will be going on. She has also filed a first report this morning with fresh information about Phlilae’s status and much more. To follow her, the best spot are her Blog at the Planetary Society and her Twitter Feed.

• Emily has also put together a Twitter List with officially designated Rosetta/Philae Tweeters for all the up-to-date information which is very worth following and subscribing to.

Nicole Gugliucci and Georgia Bracey from CosmoQuest are going to dedicate tomorrow’s episode of the Learning Space Hangout to the hopefully successful comet landing. The hangout starts at 8pm CET, about three hours after the landing. The Weekly Space Hangout on Friday is also probably going to have a lot to talk about Rosetta.

This is basically everything really important – I’ll update this post sometime tomorrow according to what happens, but everything else is now up to the two spacecraft themselves and the engineers behind them. Good luck Rosetta and Philae! 

[Quick Update: PHILAE HAS LANDED! Almost right on time the news came that the lander had made it to the comet’s surface. There are some concerns about stability, because the harpoons don’t seem to have fired, but the scientists are very optimistic and the lander is certainly working and returning data. For more news, see the above links!]

[Update 11/13: First surface images from the comet! Philae’s landing didn’t go all according to plan, because the lander actually bounced two times after the first ground contact and the final location seems to be in the shadow of a crater rim, but considering the circumstances this is still a phenomenal success. The latest press conference from today had a lot of detailed information especially about the newly released images.]

[Update 11/16: Because it finally landed in the shadow of a crater rim, the (first) life of Philae was unfortunately too short, but a lot of amazing science data was collected. I recommend reading Emily Lakdawalla’s last post about witnessing the remaining time before the lander went to sleep. There is a chance that the plucky little lander will wake up again, but for now there is still the Rosetta spacecraft itself orbiting the comet, which is actually the main part of the mission!]

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