NASA spacecraft burns for another comet flyby

Nov 23, 2010
STARDUST Launch Artist rendering of Stardust-NExT spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL

(PhysOrg.com) -- Eighty-six days out from its appointment with a comet, NASA's Stardust spacecraft fired its thrusters to help refine its flight path. The Stardust-NExT mission will fly past comet Tempel 1 next Valentine's Day (Feb. 14, 2011). It will perform NASA's second comet flyby within four months.

"One comet down, one to go," said Tim Larson, project manager for both the Stardust-NExT mission and the EPOXI mission -- which successfully flew past comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4.

The trajectory correction maneuver, which adjusts the spacecraft's flight path, began at 2 p.m. EST (11:00 a.m. PST) on Nov. 20. The Stardust spacecraft's rockets fired for 9 seconds, consumed about 41 grams (1.4 ounces) of fuel and changed the spacecraft's speed by all of 0.33 meters per second (about 0.7 miles per hour). The maneuver was designed to target a point in space 200 kilometers (124 miles) from comet Tempel 1.

Launched on Feb. 7, 1999, Stardust became the first in history to collect samples from a comet (comet Wild 2), and return them to Earth for study. While its sample return capsule parachuted to Earth in January 2006, mission controllers were placing the still viable spacecraft on a path that would allow NASA the opportunity to re-use the already-proven flight system if a target of opportunity presented itself. In January 2007, NASA re-christened the mission "Stardust-NExT" (New Exploration of Tempel), and the Stardust team began a four-and-a-half year journey for the spacecraft to . This will be the second exploration of Tempel 1 by a spacecraft ().

Along with the high-resolution images of the comet's surface, Stardust-NExT will also measure the composition, size distribution and flux of dust emitted into the coma, and provide important new information on how Jupiter family comets evolve and how they formed 4.6 billion years ago.

Explore further: NASA: Engineer vital to 1969 moon landing dies

More information: stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov/

Related Stories

NASA's Stardust Burns for Comet, Less Than a Year Away

Feb 18, 2010

Just three days shy of one year before its planned flyby of comet Tempel 1, NASA's Stardust spacecraft has successfully performed a maneuver to adjust the time of its encounter by eight hours and 20 minutes. ...

NASA spacecraft on final approach toward comet

Nov 02, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The EPOXI mission spacecraft has refined its path toward a Nov. 4 flyby of comet Hartley 2, successfully performing its final maneuver today at 8 a.m. PDT (11 a.m. EDT). The spacecraft burned ...

Stardust Mission Status Report

Jan 06, 2006

Ten days before its historic return to Earth with the first-ever samples from a comet, NASA's Stardust spacecraft successfully performed its 18th flight path adjustment. This second-to-last scheduled maneuver ...

NASA Stardust Capsule To Go On Display At Smithsonian

Sep 26, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Having returned the world's first particles from a comet, NASA's Stardust sample return capsule will join the collection of flight icons in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum ...

NASA's EPOXI mission sets up for comet flyby

Sep 30, 2010

Earlier yesterday, navigators and mission controllers for NASA's EPOXI mission watched their computer screens as 23.6 million kilometers (14.7 million miles) away, their spacecraft successfully performed its ...

Recommended for you

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

16 hours ago

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

Apr 18, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

Apr 18, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...