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PASADENA, CALIF. 91109.  TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011


March 5, 1999

NASA's Stardust spacecraft continues to operate smoothly since its perfect launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 7. The performance of the Delta II rocket in delivering Stardust onto its interplanetary trajectory was so precise, in fact, that the mission's first course correction maneuver, scheduled for February 22, was deemed unnecessary and was cancelled.

The dust flux monitor instrument has been turned on and is now operational, with initial data being forwarded to co- investigator Dr. Anthony Tuzzolino at the University of Chicago, where the instrument was built. The dust flux monitor will register impacts by particles as Stardust flies through the coma of Comet Wild-2 on January 2, 2004. The comet and interstellar dust analyzer, provided by Germany's Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, has also been turned on, and the Stardust team expects to complete its testing this week. On March 19, the Stardust operations team plans to turn on the navigation camera, which will help target the spacecraft and also provide images of Comet Wild-2's nucleus.

The spacecraft is now more than 10.6 million kilometers (6.5 million miles) from Earth, traveling on a long trajectory that will carry it through a stream of interstellar dust on its way to its encounter with Comet Wild-2.

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 beyond the Moon. 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 January 15, 2006.

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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