Stardust Mission Status Report

Jan 06, 2006
Artist's concept of Stardust
Image: Artist's concept of Stardust near Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL

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 puts the spacecraft on the right path to rendezvous with Earth on Jan. 15 (Universal Time), when it will release its sample return capsule.

At 1800 Universal Time (10:00 am Pacific Time) on Thursday, Jan. 5, Stardust fired all eight of its 4.4 newton (1-pound) thrusters for a total of 107 seconds, changing the comet sampler's speed by 2.4 meters per second (about 5.4 miles per hour). The maneuver required 385 grams (0.85 pounds) of hydrazine monopropellant to complete. A final trajectory correction maneuver is scheduled prior to release of the sample return capsule.

"It was a textbook maneuver," said Ed Hirst, Stardust deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "After sifting through all the post-burn data, I expect we will find ourselves right on the money."

In the early morning hours of January 15, 2006, the Stardust mission returns to Earth after a 4.63 billion kilometer (2.88 billion mile) round-trip journey carrying a precious cargo of cometary and interstellar dust particles. Scientists believe Stardust's cargo will help provide answers to fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system.

Scientists believe in-depth terrestrial analysis of cometary samples will reveal much not just about comets but about the earliest history of the solar system. Locked within the cometary particles is unique chemical and physical information that could be the record of the formation of the planets and the materials from which they were made.

Extensive information on the Stardust mission is available from the Stardust site at www.nasa.gov/stardust .

Source: NASA

Explore further: SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's Stardust: Good to the last drop

Mar 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- On Thursday, March 24 at about 4 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. EDT), NASA's Stardust spacecraft will perform a final burn with its main engines.

Stardust celebrates twelve years with rocket burn

Feb 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Stardust spacecraft marked its 12th anniversary in space on Monday, Feb. 7, with a rocket burn to further refine its path toward a Feb. 14 date with a comet.

Stardust spacecraft adjusts flight path for comet meetup

Feb 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Just over two weeks before its flyby of comet Tempel 1, NASA's Stardust spacecraft fired its thrusters to help refine its flight path toward the comet. The Stardust-NExT mission will fly past ...

NASA plans Valentine's date with a comet

Jan 19, 2011

Like two strangers in the night, a US spacecraft and a speeding comet will dash by one another on Valentine's Day, NASA said Wednesday, and skywatchers are eager to see what happens.

Recommended for you

SpaceX launches supplies to space station (Update)

6 hours ago

The SpaceX company returned to orbit Friday, launching fresh supplies to the International Space Station after more than a month's delay and setting the stage for urgent spacewalking repairs.

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

6 hours ago

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

6 hours ago

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

9 hours ago

(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

9 hours ago

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 ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

10 hours ago

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(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 ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...