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Stardust Status Report

January 19, 2001

There were numerous Deep Space Network (DSN) tracking passes in the past week and all subsystems are performing normally.

Stardust came within 6008 km of Earth's surface to obtain a gravity assist. This enlarged its orbit relative to the Sun so that it will now intercept the orbit of Comet P/Wild 2 in 2004. No DSN coverage was possible around closest flyby, as the spacecraft was below the elevation limit of the DSN antennas. Images of the Stardust spacecraft, streaking across the heavens as it approached Earth, were taken in the United States, Australia, Hungary and Mexico. The images can be seen on the STARDUST home page (

Seventeen hours after Earth flyby, as the spacecraft flew above the Moon, Stardust took twenty-five images. Twenty-one images were taken of the Moon, while the remaining four were zero exposure bias images to determine the background noise. These images were taken to provide calibration data of the Navigation Camera (NAVCAM) performance. All filters were used and the Moon was placed in different locations in the CCD field of view.

The lunar image sequence was executed perfectly. The images were a combination of compressed (8 bits/pixel) and uncompressed (16 bits/pixel) images. The spacecraft turned to the proper attitude and the mirror was correctly positioned to capture the Moon in all planned images. The exposures were correct, using about half of the 4096 gray levels in the uncompressed images. Finally, all images were received on the ground and are now being analyzed.

The best news is that the spatial resolution of the camera has been improved significantly due to the two heating sequences. Features as small as a few pixels are visible in the image, which is over 500 pixels across. Stardust could resolve features as small as tens of meters on a 1-km (.62-mile) comet, an order of magnitude better than the Giotto images of Comet Halley. There is still room for improvement to sharpen the images even more and to reduce scattered light with additional camera and mirror heating. This will be reviewed in the next few months. JPL Media Relations provided a news release about the successful flyby and lunar images with a lunar image available on the Stardust web site.

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

Last Updated: November 26, 2003
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