Segments in this Video

Introduction: To Catch a Comet (01:22)


The Rosetta Spacecraft is about to land on the surface of a comet deep in outer space. This colossal scientific undertaking could answer the question of how life began on Earth.

Rosetta Mission (06:23)

Scientists and journalists gather to await the moment when Rosetta wakes up from 31 months of hibernation. Rosetta has traveled 791 million miles to a point near Jupiter's orbit.

Waking Up Rosetta (06:36)

Rosetta was put into hibernation as a risky maneuver to enable a rendezvous with comet 67P. Mark McCaughrean explains how the team planned to stabilize the spacecraft while in hibernation. The ESA receives a first message from Rosetta after 3 years in hibernation.

Countdown to Landing (04:44)

Dr. Claudia Alexander explains the friable nature of comet dust and what NASA has found in comet dust. Amino acids found in comet dust may mean that comets delivered the building blocks of life to Earth.

Matching Speeds (04:06)

Dr. Matt Taylor explains the difficulties of landing a spacecraft on a comet traveling 100,000 kph. McCaughrean explains how Rosetta was slung into space with gravity assist maneuvers to match the speed of the comet.

The Comet's Coma (02:54)

Taylor explains what a coma is and why the team was surprised to find evidence of 67P's coma.

Simulating the Comet (02:13)

Alexander explains the phenomenon of sublimation and how it creates a comet's coma. Supersonic gas jets carry dust and matter from the comet into space.

Navigating Hazards of the Coma (03:11)

Andrea Accomazzo leads the flight team in bringing Rosetta in close approach to the comet. As the comet comes closer to the sun, the coma becomes a bigger navigational hazard.

Orbiting the Comet (01:54)

Journalists from around the world flock to mission control to see Rosetta enter orbit around the comet. Alexander discusses the mystery of the unique features of comet 67P.

Solving the Mystery Shape (02:25)

Taylor attempts to recreate the shape of the comet in the lab to understand how it was formed. Rosetta detects new faint jets of gas escaping from the neck of 67P.

Picking a Safe Landing Site (05:22)

The flight team uses Osiris, a $100 million camera, to take pictures of the comet's surface. Landing on a comet, which has weak gravity, is a different from landing on Earth or the moon.

Testing Philae's Harpoons (02:46)

Stephan Ulamec leads a test of the anchor harpoons in a granular material to ascertain if Philae can land successfully.

Landing Site J (05:38)

Scientists from around the world congregate to choose a site for Philae to attempt touchdown. Taylor explains that none of the sites was ideal and the team had to pick from the best of the bad options.

A Defining Moment for Science (04:36)

Dr. Fred Goesmann explains how the mobile laboratory Cossack, utilizes the tools on Philae to analyze gases. Goesmann hopes that finding amino acids on the comet would add evidence to the theory that comets seeded the first life on earth.

Credits: To Catch a Comet (00:30)

Credits: To Catch a Comet

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To Catch a Comet

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Billions of kilometers from Earth, a spacecraft the size of a car traveled towards an icy rock 2.5 miles across hurtling through space at tens of kilometers per second. It 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.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL129866

Copyright date: ©2016

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To Catch a Comet

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