Merrilee Fellows (818) 393-0754
Dwayne Brown (202) 358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
DC Agle (818) 393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Stardust Mission Status Report
January 05, 2006
Ten days before its historic return to Earth with the first-ever samples from a comet, NASA's Stardust
spacecraft successfully performed its 18th flight path adjustment. This second-to-last scheduled maneuver
puts the spacecraft on the right path to rendezvous with Earth on Jan. 15 (Universal Time), when it will
release its sample return capsule.
At 1800 Universal Time (10:00 am Pacific Time) on Thursday, Jan. 5, Stardust fired all eight of its 4.4 newton
(1-pound) thrusters for a total of 107 seconds, changing the comet sampler's speed by 2.4 meters per second
(about 5.4 miles per hour). The maneuver required 385 grams (0.85 pounds) of hydrazine monopropellant to
complete. A final trajectory correction maneuver is scheduled prior to release of the sample return capsule.
"It was a textbook maneuver," said Ed Hirst, Stardust deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "After sifting through all the post-burn data, I expect we will find ourselves
right on the money."
In the early morning hours of January 15, 2006, the Stardust mission returns to Earth after a 4.63 billion
kilometer (2.88 billion mile) round-trip journey carrying a precious cargo of cometary and interstellar dust
particles. Scientists believe Stardust's cargo will help provide answers to fundamental questions about the
origins of the solar system.
Scientists believe in-depth terrestrial analysis of cometary samples will reveal much not just about comets
but about the earliest history of the solar system. Locked within the cometary particles is unique chemical
and physical information that could be the record of the formation of the planets and the materials from
which they were made.
Extensive information on the Stardust mission is available from the Stardust site at www.nasa.gov/stardust .
JPL manages the Stardust mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems,
Denver, developed and operates the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. NASA's
Johnson Space Center contributed to Stardust payload development, and the Johnson Space Center will curate the
sample and support analysis and sample allocation.
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/home .