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: Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rosetta comet comes alive

Jun 04, 2014

A spacecraft from Earth is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface.

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

Bacteria manipulate salt to build shelters to hibernate

14 hours ago

For the first time, Spanish researchers have detected an unknown interaction between microorganisms and salt. When Escherichia coli cells are introduced into a droplet of salt water and is left to dry, b ...

How do we terraform Venus?

14 hours ago

It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?

Biomarkers of the deep

16 hours ago

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain is a unique geological site that has fascinated astrobiologists for decades. The Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB) in Spain's Río Tinto area is the largest known deposit ...

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

17 hours ago

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

User comments : 0