The European Space Agency (ESA) is on high alert as the Rosetta spacecraft is in the process of deploying the Philae lander to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Follow its progress live from mission control in Germany. The actual landing should happen about 11AM Eastern time, but there is plenty going on now.
Emily Lakdawalla offers plenty of information in her timeline of the event at The Planetary Society. And look for her in the live feed.
All next week, I'll be in Darmstadt, Germany, at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), to witness the historic attempt at landing on a comet. I'm not going to lie to you: I'm going to be terrified about Philae's survival until I see ESA engineers leaping from their seats and cheering. To be clear, I have no specific doubts about the spacecraft or its designers. It's just that we have never landed on anything like a comet before. We don't really know what the surface of a comet is like -- is it a hard, crusty shell of rocky material? A diaphanously fluffy, almost cloud-like layer of highly porous dust? Gravelly? Crunchy? Crystalline? Powdery? Sandpapery? Slippery? Who knows? The last time we landed on a surface that we knew so little about was when ESA landed Huygens on Titan in 2004. But Huygens did almost all of its science on the way down, returning all its data to the Cassini orbiter in real time, so it didn't matter whether Huygens survived its arrival on Titan's surface. In contrast, almost all of Philae's science will not come until after a successful landing. It's going to be terrifying. But I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Aldo get live updates from Lakdawalla's Twitter feed.
Phil Plait is posting pictures at Bad Astronomy as they come in.
The picture above is from the Unrealistic Comet Landing Simulator game from UsVsTh3m. Try it out after the real comet landing.
Update: I guess we can call this a success!
Update: Randall Munroe has updated today's xkcd comic to reflect the success of the mission.