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February 11, 1999

NASA's Stardust spacecraft, successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Feb. 7, remains in excellent health with all systems normal as it forges ahead on its mission to Comet Wild-2.

The Stardust mission operations team reported that the Delta II launch was so well-targeted that barely any adjustment will be required during the mission's first scheduled trajectory adjustment on Feb. 22.

Tracked through the large antennas of NASA's global Deep Space Network, Stardust passed beyond the orbit of the Moon on Monday, Feb. 8. The spacecraft is now more than 1,608,000 kilometers (nearly 1 million miles) from Earth, traveling on a long trajectory that will carry it through a stream of interstellar dust on its way to an encounter with Comet Wild-2 on Jan. 2, 2004.

Stardust's objectives are to gather particles flying off the nucleus of Comet Wild-2 and return them to Earth for scientific analysis, and to collect and return samples of interstellar dust flowing through our solar system. Stardust is the first spacecraft ever launched on a mission to bring back material from outside the Earth-Moon system. It is also the first U.S. mission to a comet. Stardust's sample return capsule is due to parachute into Earth's atmosphere and land on the U.S. military's Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City on Jan. 15, 2006.

In the next two weeks, the Stardust mission operations team expects to turn on Stardust's dust flux monitor instrument, provided by the University of Chicago, and the comet and interstellar dust analyzer, provided by Germany's Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

Stardust, built and operated by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colorado, is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.

Last Updated: November 26, 2003
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