NASA TV to Provide Coverage of European Mission Comet Touchdown on Sept. 30

Artist's concept of Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, 2016. Image: ESA/ATG medialab.
Artist's concept of Rosetta shortly before hitting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, 2016. Image: ESA/ATG medialab.

Released by DC Agle (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo (NASA HQ)

NASA Television and the agency’s website will air the conclusion of ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Rosetta mission from 3:15-5am PDT (6:15-8am EDT) Friday, September 30, 2016, with NASA commentary, interviews, and analysis of the successful mission.

The Rosetta mission will end with the controlled decent of the spacecraft onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at around 4:20am PDT (7:20am EDT).

From 5:15am to 7:15am PDT (8:15am to 10:15am EDT), NASA scientists and engineers involved in ESA’s Rosetta mission will be available for live broadcast interviews from the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.

Rosetta was launched in 2004 carrying 11 science instruments, with several contributions from NASA including: the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO); the Alice spectrograph; the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES); and the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS) electronics package for the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion Neutral Analysis (ROSINA). NASA’s Deep Space Network supports ESA’s Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and navigation.

The spacecraft arrived at its destination comet on August 6, 2014, becoming the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet and escort it as it orbits the sun. About two months later, the small Philae lander deployed from Rosetta touched down on the comet and bounced several times before alighting on the surface. Philae obtained the first images ever taken from the surface of a comet, and sent back valuable scientific data for several days. ESA is ending the mission because the spacecraft’s ever-increasing distance from the sun has resulted in significantly reduced solar power to operate the spacecraft and its instruments.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the sun and its planets formed. Rosetta is the first spacecraft to witness up close how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun’s radiation. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in the formation of planets.

In addition to NASA’s contribution, Rosetta’s Philae lander was provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, French National Space Agency, and Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the US contributions to the Rosetta mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO and hosts its principal investigator, Mark Hofstadter. The Southwest Research Institute developed Rosetta’s IES and Alice instruments and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch for IES and Alan Stern for the Alice instrument.

NASA TV streaming video, downlink and updated scheduling information is at www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

The landing coverage will also be streamed live at www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2.

For more information on the US instruments aboard Rosetta, visit rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov.

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