How to Watch Europe's Rosetta Comet Mission Finale on Thursday, Friday

Rosetta Impact on Comet 67P: Artist's Illustration
Artist's illustration of Europe's Rosetta probe ending its mission by touching down on Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Sept. 30, 2016. (Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

Europe's history-making Rosetta comet mission is coming to an end, and you can watch the grand finale live Thursday and Friday (Sept. 29 and Sept. 30).

Around 6:40 a.m. EDT (1040 GMT) Friday morning, Rosetta is scheduled to spiral slowly down onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which the robotic spacecraft has been orbiting for more than two years. You can follow that epic moment live on — as well a variety of other Rosetta events Thursday and Friday — courtesy of NASA TV and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Thursday's events will feature a Rosetta science briefing from 8:30 a.m. EDT to 11:30 a.m. EDT (1230 to 1530 GMT). During the ESA briefing, Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor and a number of other team members will discuss the top discoveries of the mission, which launched in March 2004 and arrived at Comet 67P in August 2014. In the process, it became the first spacecraft ever to orbit a comet. [Rosetta's Amazing Comet Mission in Pictures]

Then, on Friday, NASA TV will provide Rosetta landing coverage from 6:15 a.m. EDT to 8 a.m. EDT (1015 to 1200 GMT); NASA experts will discuss Rosetta's final act and the mission's achievements. (Because it currently takes 40 minutes for signals from Rosetta to reach Earth, confirmation of the spacecraft's touchdown isn't expected until about 7:20 a.m. EDT, or 1120 GMT.)

ESA will host its own end-of-mission webcast Friday from 6:30 a.m. EDT to 7:40 a.m. EDT (1030 to 1140 GMT), though those times may change slightly as Rosetta scientists firm up the probe's impact time, ESA officials said. You can watch that webcast live via ESA here:

Friday's touchdown will be the second for the Rosetta mission. The orbiter also carried a washing-machine-size lander called Philae, which descended to Comet 67P's surface in November 2014. That landing didn't go as planned; Philae's anchoring harpoons failed to fire, and the craft bounced twice before settling beneath an icy overhang.

Exactly where Philae ended up remained a mystery until this month, when Rosetta team members finally spotted it in pictures of 67P captured by the orbiter.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.