Sept. 25, 2008
William P. Jeffs
Johnson Space Center, Houston
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
NASA STARDUST CAPSULE TO GO ON DISPLAY AT SMITHSONIAN
WASHINGTON -- Having returned the world's first particles from a
comet, NASA's Stardust sample return capsule will join the collection
of flight icons in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in
Washington. The capsule will go on public display in the museum's
Milestones of Flight Gallery on Oct. 1, the 50th anniversary of NASA.
Stardust, comprising a spacecraft and capsule, completed a seven-year,
3-billion-mile journey in 2006. A tennis racket-like, aerogel-lined
collector was extended to capture particles as the spacecraft flew
within 150 miles of comet Wild 2 in January 2004. Carrying the
collected particles, the capsule returned to Earth Jan. 15, 2006,
landing in Utah. Two days later, it was transported to a curatorial
facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"Very few people get to build something, launch it into space, see it
be successful and then get it back in their hands," said Karen
McNamara, Johnson recovery lead for the Stardust mission. "To be able
to share this with the public is phenomenal."
The capsule joins the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, Charles
Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia that
carried the first men to walk on the moon.
"The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum is
delighted to add to the National Collection the Stardust return
capsule," said Roger Launius, senior curator of the Division of Space
History at the museum. "As one of the premier space science missions
of the recent past, Stardust will take its place alongside other
iconic objects from the history of air and spaceflight. I look
forward to helping to impart more knowledge to our visitors about the
makeup of the universe using this significant and path breaking
Hardware provided to the Smithsonian includes actual flight
components. Elements relevant to the science goals of the mission
remain with NASA.
After successfully completing its mission, Stardust will use its
flight-proven hardware to perform a new, previously unplanned
investigation. The mission, called Stardust-NExT, will revisit comet
9P/Tempel 1. This investigation will provide the first look at the
changes to a comet nucleus produced after a close approach to the
sun. It also will mark the first time a comet ever has been
"Usually, when a piece of your spacecraft goes into the Smithsonian
that means the mission's over," said Stardust-NExT project manager
Rick Grammier, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
Calif. "But the Stardust spacecraft is still doing the job for NASA
and in February 2011, it will fly within 120 miles of the comet."
Stardust is a low-cost, Discovery Program mission for NASA's Science
Mission Directorate. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the
project. Joseph Veverka of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., is the
mission's principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of
Denver manages mission operations.
For information about the Stardust mission on the Web, visit:
Images of the Stardust capsule being prepared for shipment can be
NASA Television will air Video File material to illustrate this
For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information,