MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Stardust Mission Status
January 24, 2002
NASA's comet-bound spacecraft, Stardust, successfully
completed a critical deep space maneuver, positioning itself
on a course to encounter comet Wild 2 in January 2004 and
collect dust from the comet.
At 21:56 Universal Time (1:56 p.m. Pacific Time), January
18, Stardust fired its thrusters for nearly 111 seconds,
increasing the speed of the spacecraft by 2.65 meters per
second (about 6 miles per hour).
"This is the maneuver that sets us up for the bigger
maneuver. It's a combination of increasing the speed of the
spacecraft and at the same time putting it on the path to
reach Wild 2," said Robert Ryan, Stardust's mission manager at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It's like
the setup pass in a basketball game. Now we're ready to shoot
The spacecraft responded exactly as planned, said Ryan,
although communication was tricky. Stardust is currently the
farthest solar-powered object from the Sun, over 395 million
kilometers (245 million miles) away. The spacecraft's signal
confirming it had completed the maneuver took almost 30
minutes to reach Earth.
In January 2004, Stardust will fly through the halo of
dust that surrounds the nucleus of comet Wild 2. The
spacecraft will return to Earth in January 2006 to make a soft
landing at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.
Its sample return capsule, holding microscopic particles of
comet and interstellar dust, will be taken to the planetary
material curatorial facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center,
Houston, Texas, where the samples will be carefully stored and
Stardust's cometary and interstellar dust samples will
help provide answers to fundamental questions about the
origins of the solar system. More information on the Stardust
mission is available at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov .
Stardust, a part of NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost,
highly focused science missions, was built by Lockheed Martin
Astronautics and Operations, Denver, Colo., and is managed by
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's
Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The
principal investigator is astronomy professor Donald E.
Brownlee of the University of Washington in Seattle.