NASA Stardust Capsule To Go On Display At Smithsonian

Sep 26, 2008
NASA's Stardust sample return capsule successfully landed at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range at 2:10 a.m. Pacific time (3:10 a.m. Mountain time). The capsule contains cometary and interstellar samples gathered by the Stardust spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

(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 in Washington. The capsule will go on public display in the museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery on Oct. 1, the 50th anniversary of NASA.

Stardust, comprising a spacecraft and capsule, completed a seven-year, 3-billion-mile journey in 2006. A tennis racket-like, aerogel-lined collector was extended to capture particles as the spacecraft flew within 150 miles of comet Wild 2 in January 2004. Carrying the collected particles, the capsule returned to Earth Jan. 15, 2006, landing in Utah. Two days later, it was transported to a curatorial facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Very few people get to build something, launch it into space, see it be successful and then get it back in their hands," said Karen McNamara, Johnson recovery lead for the Stardust mission. "To be able to share this with the public is phenomenal."

The capsule joins the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia that carried the first men to walk on the moon.

"The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum is delighted to add to the National Collection the Stardust return capsule," said Roger Launius, senior curator of the Division of Space History at the museum. "As one of the premier space science missions of the recent past, Stardust will take its place alongside other iconic objects from the history of air and spaceflight. I look forward to helping to impart more knowledge to our visitors about the makeup of the universe using this significant and path breaking object."

Hardware provided to the Smithsonian includes actual flight components. Elements relevant to the science goals of the mission remain with NASA.

After successfully completing its mission, Stardust will use its flight-proven hardware to perform a new, previously unplanned investigation. The mission, called Stardust-NExT, will revisit comet 9P/Tempel 1. This investigation will provide the first look at the changes to a comet nucleus produced after a close approach to the sun. It also will mark the first time a comet ever has been revisited.

"Usually, when a piece of your spacecraft goes into the Smithsonian that means the mission's over," said Stardust-NExT project manager Rick Grammier, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "But the Stardust spacecraft is still doing the job for NASA and in February 2011, it will fly within 120 miles of the comet."

Stardust is a low-cost, Discovery Program mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the project. Joseph Veverka of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., is the mission's principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver manages mission operations.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: NASA astronaut memorial stirs memories for shuttle veteran (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Telescope to seek dust where other Earths may lie

16 hours ago

The NASA-funded Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer, or LBTI, has completed its first study of dust in the "habitable zone" around a star, opening a new door to finding planets like Earth. Dust is a ...

Cosmic impacts might help synthesize organic compounds

Dec 12, 2014

Bullets of ice shot at high speeds can deposit organic compounds on surfaces they strike. The new findings suggest that comets might, indeed, have helped deliver key ingredients of life to Earth and perhaps ...

A close-up with a comet

Nov 11, 2014

Even as Tom Economou approached retirement age in 1994, he began planning an instrument for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to a comet. He still remembers the reaction of Riccardo Levi-Setti, ...

A timeline of deep-space comet encounters

Nov 10, 2014

12th November 2014. That is the date in which Rosetta, led by the European Space Agency, will release its lander Philae to touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in outer space.

Recommended for you

Scientists launch CubeSats into radiation belts

10 hours ago

Twin, pintsized satellites built in part at the University of New Hampshire's Space Science Center will be launched into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:20 a.m. (EST) Thursday, January ...

Cassini catches Titan naked in the solar wind

10 hours ago

(Phys.org)—Researchers studying data from NASA's Cassini mission have observed that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, behaves much like Venus, Mars or a comet when exposed to the raw power of the solar wind. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.