To Catch A Comet

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On November 12, 2014, billions of kilometers from Earth, spacecraft orbiter Rosetta and lander Philae did what no other had dared to attempt - land on the volatile surface of a comet as it zooms around the sun at 67,000 km/hr. The European Space Agency hopes this mission can help peer into our past and unlock secrets of our origins.

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About the Show

Billions of kilometers from Earth, a spacecraft the size of a car traveled towards an icy rock, 2.5 miles across and hurtling through space at tens of kilometers per second. The spacecraft had been in space for ten years, but on Nov. 12, 2014, it did something no other spacecraft had ever attempted: orbit and land on a comet.

Rosetta, the European Space Agency (ESA) orbiter, and Philae, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) lander, were not short of ambition. It took an entire generation - 30 years - to get to this point, besieged by technological challenges, faulty launch vehicles, and budget constraints along the way that threatened to stop the mission in its tracks.

The idea behind Rosetta was awesome. However, a daunting list of challenges awaited the team at mission control. Unable to carry enough fuel due to weight restrictions, the Rosetta scientists devised a delicate cat-and-mouse trajectory to reach their distant destination. In the 10 years Rosetta had been in space, she flew around the Earth three times, Mars once, and the asteroid belt twice in order to gain the momentum she needed to reach her destination. In the months before landing, the team navigated Rosetta safely to a world never before observed at such distances or with such accuracy. Rosetta orbited the comet before releasing Philae onto the surface, and with little gravity from the comet, the team at mission control orbited manually.

Collectively, Rosetta and Philae carry a remarkable 21 scientific instruments, each designed and manufactured globally by hundreds of engineers and visionaries. Collectively, these instruments serve one highly important purpose: to chip away at the comet’s secrets, retrieving invaluable data, and to beam those secrets back to Earth, promising to not only unlock the secrets from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago, but to uncover the origins of life itself.

Rosetta will also follow this colossal comet as it blasts towards, and around, the Sun.

Rosetta, along with its passenger Philae, are guaranteed to provide a treasure-trove of scientific data and an unforgettable ride for viewers everywhere.

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