Tomorrow morning, a 10-year, 4-billion-mile journey will end when a spacecraft attempts to land on a comet for the first time.
The ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 6, settling in an orbit around the roughly 20-trillion-pound space rock, which, if you squint, kind of looks like a rubber duck. For the last couple months, Rosetta has been studying the comet, surveying its surface and measuring the dust particles and gases around it. Scientists are finding that 67P, which stretches for about 2.5 miles at its widest, is expelling methane, ethanol, and sulfur, which might give it a rotten-egg-like stench.
Tonight, at 11:35 p.m. PST, Rosetta will release its 220-pound lander craft, dubbed Philae, which will slowly descend from a height of about 13 miles onto the landing site named Agilkia, a relatively flat spot on the duck’s head. You can follow along here (above) as the landing unfolds on live webcast from the ESA’s mission control starting at 11:00 a.m. PST/2:00 p.m. EST today. NASA TV is also providing live coverage starting at 6:00 a.m. PST/9:00 a.m. EST tomorrow.
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