Status Report


By SpaceRef Editor
October 22, 1999
Filed under

The STARDUST spacecraft continues to perform normally in cruise sequence
SC010. The flight team at Lockheed Martin Astronautics (LMA) had
multiple communications sessions with the spacecraft during the past
week and were successful in taking 9 Navigation Camera images using 2
exposures and stepping through all 8 filters. The mirror was also
successfully moved during this time period, enabling the camera to
image stars without looking through the periscope. The images will be
downlinked in November during the next scheduled pass using the High
Gain Antenna.

STARDUST will be the first spacecraft ever to bring cometary material
back to Earth for analysis by scientists worldwide. Comets are believed
to contain the original building blocks of the planets and perhaps those
of life itself. Early in Earth’s history, comets laden with water ice
slammed into the planet, maybe providing the source of our oceans. When
STARDUST returns its pristine comet samples, scientists will be able to
examine for the first time the key ingredients of the original recipe
that created the planets.

STARDUST was built Lockheed Martin Astronautics and is managed by
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California. The principal
investigator of the mission is space particle scientist Dr. Donald Brownlee
of the University of Washington. Dr. Kenneth Atkins of JPL is the
project manager.

STARDUST’s main objective is to collect and bring to Earth particles
flying off the nucleus of Comet Wild-2 in January 2004. It will also
bring back samples of interstellar dust including the recently discovered
dust streaming into the solar system from other stars. The spacecraft
will send back pictures of Comet Wild-2, count the comet particles striking
the spacecraft, and produce real-time analyses of the composition of the
material coming off the comet.

A unique substance called aerogel is the medium that will be used to
catch and preserve comet samples. When STARDUST swings by Earth in
January 2006, the samples encased in a reentry capsule will be jettisoned
and parachute to a pre-selected site in the Utah desert.

STARDUST is the fourth under NASA’s Discovery Program of low-cost science
missions, following Lunar Prospector, Mars Pathfinder and the Near Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR). The goal of NASA’s Discovery Program is to
launch many smaller missions with shorter development time that perform
focused science at lower cost.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena, California.

For more information on the STARDUST mission – the first ever comet sample
return mission – please visit the STARDUST home page:

SpaceRef staff editor.