Press Release: Live Viewing of Rosetta, First-Ever Soft Landing on a Comet

November 5, 2014

San Francisco, CA – Over the past decade, Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft has been traveling toward a rendezvous with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Its giant solar arrays outstretched like wings, Rosetta is studying the gasses and dust near the comet, searching for clues about the history of the heavens and the origins of life on Earth.

But on November 12, the spacecraft is poised to deliver its payload and attempt the first-ever soft landing on a comet with Philae, its lander. To mark this historic event, swissnex San Francisco and the Chabot Space & Science Center host a live feed in Chabot’s full dome planetarium beginning at 6am (landing is expected at 8am).

Rosetta has orbited the comet since August, readying to deploy Philae. Now the time has come. The viewing at Chabot will incorporate a live stream from the European Space Agency’s mission control, as well as a live link with scientist Katherin Altwegg of the University of Bern, Switzerland, who leads the Rosina experiment, the two big mass spectrometers aboard Rosetta.

Chabot staff astronomers will also be on hand for Q&A sessions before and after the landing. And Laura Welcher of The Long Now Foundation, Director of Long Now’s own Rosetta Project, will give a presentation about how their Rosetta Disk became part of the ESA’s mission. She’ll show off an actual Rosetta Disk that holds a micro-etched archive of thousands of pages of language documentation.

Doors open at 6am and admission for this event is $7. For more information or to reserve your space, visit

Join us to make history!

Press Contact

Megan Williams
Head of Communications
swissnex San Francisco
t: (415) 912 5901 x110 

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About swissnex San Francisco

swissnex San Francisco is a platform for the exchange of knowledge and ideas in science, education, art, and innovation. We highlight the best of Swiss and North American ingenuity and create opportunities for networking among our diverse group of professional contacts in the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and beyond. swissnex San Francisco is a public-private venture and an initiative of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), managed in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs as an annex of the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco.

About Chabot Space & Science Center

Chabot Space & Science Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit interactive science center whose mission is to inspire and educate students of all ages about Planet Earth and the Universe. Located in the Oakland hills, the Center focuses on the earth, life, physical and astronomical sciences, with a 130-year legacy of serving Bay Area communities through exhibits, public programs, school field trips, science camps, teacher training, teen development programs and community outreach; hosts 50,000 students on school field trips and over 117,000 public visitors each year; and offers over 20,000 sq ft of interactive exhibits on a variety of space and science subjects, a world-class planetarium, school classes on over 30 different science topics, hands-on science activities, state-of-the-art classrooms and labs and publicly-available research-level telescopes.

About The Long Now Foundation

The Long Now Foundation was established in 1996 to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long-term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

About Long Now’s Involvement with ESA’s Rosetta Mission

For over a decade, The Long Now Foundation has closely watched the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission as it has orbited the Sun in search of comet 67P and untold scientific breakthroughs.

Near the turn of the century, while the mission was coming together here on terra firma, a member of the ESA team contacted Long Now because of our own Rosetta Project.

The ESA’s Rosetta probe was inspired by the Egyptian artifact, just as Long Now’s Rosetta Project was, because of what an essential historical “key” it represented. By allowing linguists and historians to decipher the long-forgotten hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, the Rosetta Stone “unlocked” the writings of the rich and long-standing culture that built the Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx and ruled the Nile delta for millennia.

ESA’s scientists hope that comet 67P will serve a similar unlocking role for our understanding of life on Earth. It’s hypothesized that the molecules that eventually became DNA and gave rise to all living things on our planet came not from the Earth itself, but instead from comets and asteroids of the early solar system. By landing Philae directly onto the comet’s surface, scientists will have their first opportunity to directly analyze the material of a cometary nucleus for signs of the ancient organic molecules that can confirm this theory.

Long Now’s Rosetta Project has created a micro-etched, nickel disk meant to last thousands of years that houses an archive of human languages so that future archaeologists and linguists might be able to unlock the writings of civilizations whose languages are likely to be lost in coming centuries.

Inspired by the resonance of this hope to unlock knowledge of the past and future, the ESA team offered to put a copy of the Rosetta Disk on the Rosetta Probe, and at this very moment an archive of 1,500 human languages is floating out among the solar system, in orbit around comet 67P.