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: