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Cherry Pop

'To Catch A Comet'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)

Overview: On November the 11th, billions of miles from Earth, a spacecraft orbiter and lander will do what no other has dared to attempt: land on the volatile surface of a comet as it flies round the sun at 41,000 mph. If successful, it could help peer into our past and unlock secrets from our very origins. The stakes couldn't be higher.

DVD Verdict: Deep space. Billions of miles from Earth, Rosetta, a spacecraft the size of a car, travels towards an icy rock 2.5 miles wide that hurtles through space at tens of thousands of miles per hour. Rosetta has been in space for ten years but in the next few days she will do something no other spacecraft has ever attempted: land on the volatile surface of a comet as it flies round the sun.

Basically, Rosetta is an aluminum box with two solar panels that extend out like wings. The box, which weighs about 6,600 lbs. (3,000 kilograms), measures about 9 by 6.8 by 6.5 feet (2.8 by 2.1 by 2 meters). The solar panels have a total span of about 105 feet (32 m). Rosetta is the first spacecraft to rely solely on solar cells to generate power.

This is the European Space Agency's (ESA) most audacious mission. It has taken a team of brilliant engineers 30 years to get to this point. The mission has been beset with daunting technological challenges, faulty launch vehicles, and the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the comet itself, all of which have conspired to stop the mission in its tracks.

Funnily enough, Rosetta was set to launch in 2003 to rendezvous with Comet 46P/Wirtanen. However, due to rocket failure, the mission was postponed, and the target was changed to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But, if it works this time, Rosetta is guaranteed to provide a treasure-trove of scientific data. But make no mistake about it, this is a dangerous mission. The rewards may be huge but so are the risks. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.