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April 1, 1999
10AM - 11AM PST
(All times in PST. PST = UTC - 8 hours)

Featured Guest
Tom Duxbury
STARDUST Mission Manager

tom_duxbury: Hello Brian, this is Tom
brian: Great Tom -- thanks for dropping by. We've got a lot of great questions waiting for you already! Let's go ahead and get started with our first student question . . . Micah would like to know - What are your main responsibilities for the STARDUST Mission?
tom_duxbury: Micah, as Project Director, I am responsible for the daily decisions of commanding the STARDUST spacecraft and analyzing the data telemetered from the spacecraft and its science instruments

explorers: What is your biggest fear of the Stardust Mission and Wild 2?
tom_duxbury: Over the next 7 years of STARDUST flight to Wild 2 and back to earth, I hope my health stays as well as the spacecraft.

qmscasey: What happens if there is a malfunction?
brian: Speaking of malfunctions, looks like Tom just had one with his computer. Hold on for a minute. Hopefully he'll be rejoining us shortly!
brian: Welcome back Tom!
tom_duxbury: I'm back

brian: Ironically, the last question before you got cut off was "What happens if there's a malfunction (presumably with the STARDUST mission, rather than this chat!)
tom_duxbury: Our STARDUST spacecraft is very smart and can fix itself - like rebooting your own computer. If this is not sufficient to fix the problem, then we send commands to the spacecraft to fix the remaining problems .

brian: We're getting lots of terrific questions so far, but mostly just from a few participants. Hope to hear from ALL of you before the chat is over!

OnizukaCenter: How many people such as scientists, technicians, etc. are actually on your Stardust team?
tom_duxbury: During our flight, we have about 10 spacecraft engineers at Lockheed Martin in Denver, 5 mission specialists (Mission Design, Navigation, Ground Data System) people at JPL. I forgot to mention, we have about 10 scientists around the world supporting the project

eddie: Any concerns about having a big chunk of the comet hit the spacecraft ?
explorers: Is there any danger of the Stardust craft getting hit by a piece of rock from the comet?
tom_duxbury: The largest particle expected to hit our spacecraft during Wild 2 flyby is the size of sand. We are protected by bulletproof shields against such particles. Jacob would like to know - Where in the solar system is STARDUST now?
kbosher: Austin would like to know -Where is the rocket located at this time?
tom_duxbury: Jacob and Austin: the spacecraft is outside the orbit of the earth heading out even further for then next year when it is beyond the orbit of Mars. then it comes back to the orbit of the earth in 2001 for an earth close flyby to use the gravity of the earth to send us even further out from the sun to encounter Wild 2 in 2004. How much will you navigate the STARDUST craft during the seven year mission?
tom_duxbury: We typically will communicate with the STARDUST spacecraft only once per week for 4 hours using the Deep Space network tracking stations to navigate the spacecraft.

qmscasey: Are you sure it will return to earth?
tom_duxbury: Yes, the spacecraft will return to earth. The successful launch in the correct direction puts the spacecraft on a trajectory which forces the spacecraft to come back to earth.

ejb190: Aside from the information gained about the comet, what else can we learn from this mission?
tom_duxbury: Analyzing the cometary particles on earth after the spacecraft returns in 2006 will tell us if comets contain material needed to support life on earth (water, hydrocarbons, etc.) and therefore we will know a bout the earth which has been impacted by comets for billions of years bringing these needed materials for life to earth.

mellie: Do you anticipate having to make any course adjustments to STARDUST to ensure it's eventual encounter with Wild 2. (My students are actively following NEAR, and were very disappointed when the adjustment to Eros didn't work.)
tom_duxbury: Yes, we expect to make almost 20 trajectory correction maneuvers (very small adjustments) to keep the STARDUST spacecraft on a precise trajectory to flyby the earth in 2001, then Wild 2 in 2004 and finally r eturn to earth in 2006.

explorers: how fast does the Stardust Craft send back pictures?
ejb190: What is the lag time between sending the message and the spacecraft receiving it?
tom_duxbury: The spacecraft has been sending a few images back to earth at 33,000 bits per second where a bit is either a zero or a 1 value. This provides us a full image in only a few minutes where a picture is made up of over 1 million pixels with each pixel containing 16 bits. Currently the time it takes signals to travel from the spacecraft to earth is less than 1 minute. However at Wild 2, it will take about 20 minutes for a signal to get back to earth.

brian: We're just over halfway through the chat. Keep submitting your questions. We'll try to get to as many of you as possible!

tom_duxbury: To all of the Jason chat audience, please forgive my typing. I am typing fast and sometimes make a mistake. I cannot use a spelling checker on-line.
brian: Not to worry Tom! No one expects perfect spelling in a chat! Jacob would like to know - What pictures will you take with the STARDUST camera? The Mars picture is cool, but it is not very close.
tom_duxbury: Jacob, we were millions of kilometers from Mars when we took the Mars picture and therefore it was very small in the image. At Wild 2, we will flyby at 150 km and expect Wild 2 to almost fill the entire imag e.

ejb1: Has NASA's initiative of "Faster, Cheaper, Better" produced any specific challenges to this mission? Micah would like to know - How much does STARDUST cost?
tom_duxbury: STARDUST cost about $150 million which is considered a "cheap" planetary mission. We also built the spacecraft and sample return vehicle in less than 3 years which is considered "fast". "Better" comes from t he fact that STARDUST is the first sample return mission since Apollo. This new way of NASA doing business has forced us to make the spacecraft very smart - to look after itself since we only talk to it once per week. Also we have a very small flight te am. These were all very challenging but so far the team and spacecraft are performing very well.

poisondarters: How is Aerogel made?
OnizukaCenter: As a teacher assigned to the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center in Kona, Hawaii I would like to inquire as to the uses of Aerogel by the public.
tom_duxbury: Aerogel is made from silica, like found in sand, and made into a glass material. Then this material is put under great heat and temperature to remove all liquids but retain its original shape. After removin g the liquids, the aerogel weighs 1000 times less than glass. Aerogel has been used in medical applications as a media to grow cultures.

brian: Just a little over 10 minutes left. We'll keep going with a few more questions, but go ahead and send in any THANK YOUs and GOODBYE messages for Tom. We'll post all of them at the end!

explorers: Do you enjoy your job?
kbosher: Do you have fun doing your job?
tom_duxbury: I am very fortunate to work at JPL. Being a country boy from Indiana, it is extremely exciting to be part of planetary exploration. I had had the privilege of working on the US ear ly Mariner and Viking mission to Mars as well as missions to the outer planets. I also worked with the Russians on their Mars and Phobos (moon of Mars) Missions.

STARDUSTers: What training does it take to become a director for a space mission?
denniemac: What is your educational background and years experience that led you to this position??? Lydia would like to know - What can a 6th grader do now to become a scientist like you?
tom_duxbury: I have my Masters of Science degree in Engineering from Purdue university. I have worked on Mariner 6, 7 and 9 Mission to Mars, Mariner 10 mission to Venus and Mercury, Pioneer 10 and 11 to Jupiter and Satur n, Viking 1 and 2 to Mars, Voyager to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, Mars observer and Mars Global Surveyor to Mars, Clementine to the Moon, the Russian Phobos and Mars Mission, and now the STARDUST Mission. I also hope to work with the European s on their Mars Mission. Therefore, I have an excellent technical background from one of the nations best universities and a lot of mission experience to become director of STARDUST. I studied hard and worked hard to obtain my dreams of exploring spac e.

Nan: It has been a great pleasure chatting...thank you very much for the taking the time to inform the public of the tremendous Stardust mission. Aloha
mellie: Thanks very much for taking time out of your busy day to help us learn more about STARDUST.
tom_duxbury: It has been my pleasure chatting with all of you. As you can tell I am very interested in space exploration. My interest came while I was in grade school and I focused my studies and work at JPL to keep me involved with space exploration. It is always enjoyable to talk to others who share the same interest. Tom

STARDUSTers: Thank you Tom Duxbury. Thank you to our moderator, Brian.
explorers: thanks for the wonderful chat I'll be sure to come back. This is Lance from Las Vegas, NV, signing off
mbrandon: Well, THANKYOU! I hope I get to talk to you guys soon again!
mbrandon: ''When I grow up, I want to be like you guys. I want to know what it's like.''
ejb1: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!
BarbaraS: - Will this chat be archived on the STARDUST web site, as well as JASON's? Where would we find it on JASON's?
tom_duxbury: Brian, the STARDUST spacecraft is calling me so I have to sign off. Bye now.

brian: The chat will definitely be archived on JASON's site. Look for it on the STARDUST page! I'm pretty sure it will be on the STARDUST site as well.
poisondarters: Bye from Gaithersburg, MD
Steve1: being from indianapolis,indiana I am envious of all the fun you have had
fasted: Thanks Tom and Brian for the interesting chat!
Britt: Thank you, this was very informative and I learned a lot. I appreciate your time spent to inform us better about the STARDUST mission. Thank you for helping us reach for the STARS!
guest3: I enjoy chatting with you on line. It's the funnest thing. THANKS! Kelsey Grine 3rd grade
brian: Bye everyone! Thanks for coming. Keep an eye on the JASON site for a complete transcript of the chat in the next few days!

Ron Baalke, STARDUST Webmaster,
Last Updated Wednesday, 07-Jun-2000 13:50:31 PDT