Science Channel Sets News Special Covering Rosetta Spacecraft's Crash Into Comet (Exclusive)

Death on a Comet: The Rosetta Mission - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Science Channel/European Space Agency /Discovery Communications

The European Space Agency next week is scheduled to crash its Rosetta spacecraft into a comet, and Science Channel is planning a news special to cover the event and the findings of the mission.

Rosetta was sent into space in 2004 to study Comet 67P and gather data on how comets could have played a key role in the evolution of life on Earth. Ten years later, it made history as the first spacecraft to orbit a comet and when its lander vehicle, dubbed Philae, touched down on the comet. (The ESA lost contact with the lander a few days after it landed when the batteries died, but the vehicle was recently located on the comet.)

The mission was intended to end in December, and because the comet is moving further away from the sun, the spacecraft will lose more and more of the solar energy it needs to keep it running. The ESA has decided to end the mission by crashing it into the comet Sept. 30.

Science Channel will cover the event in Death on a Comet: The Rosetta Mission, a special airing at 10 p.m. Sept. 30, the day of the scheduled crash, and hosted by science journalist Dr. Dan Riskin.

"This is one of the most exciting space missions of 2016, and Science Channel is there to provide compelling and immediate coverage of the biggest science stories in the news," said the network's general manager, Marc Etkind.

The network first covered the Rosetta mission when its probe first landed on the comet in the 2014 special Landing on a Comet — Rosetta Mission.

The new special will "capture the emotion of this journey's end as Rosetta gathers the last bit of science from the comet and beams it back to Earth before its mission-ending crash." It will include footage of the crash as well as interviews with experts including the scientists and engineers that contributed to the mission.

The special also will focus on the findings from Rosetta's two-year study, including close-up photographs of the comet; what it smells like (rotten eggs and marzipan); the science of how comets form in the outer reaches of the solar system; the finding of other-worldly, "heavy" water on Comet 67P's surface; the composition of the atmosphere; what causes comet tails to form; and the key discovery of organic molecules on the comet, which many scientists believe could be the ultimate cause of how life evolved here on Earth.

The move is part of Science Channel's continued push into covering breaking science news events as they happen.

The special is produced for Science Channel by Exploration Production Inc. (Landing on a Comet — Rosetta Mission), with Kelly McKeown is executive producing for EPI. For the network, Kyle McCabe is exec producer, Lindsey Foster Blumberg is producer and Michelle Irei is coordinating producer.