MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 1, 1998
NAMES ON VIETNAM WAR MEMORIAL WALL TO FLY IN SPACE
Names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
will be engraved on a microchip that will fly in space on NASA's Stardust
mission to a comet, project officials have announced.
The names will join those of more than 400,000 people who have
already submitted their names to fly, free-of-charge, on the Stardust
spacecraft, which is scheduled for launch next February on a round-trip to a
"This almost will be like sending a miniature version of the Vietnam
Memorial into space as an eternal tribute to those who fell in America's
longest war," said Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Fund. There are 58,214 names inscribed on the memorial,
Scruggs said. Approximately 2,500,000 people visit "The Wall" each year,
making the Vietnam Veterans Memorial the most visited in Washington, D.C.
Stardust's prime mission is to return a sample of comet dust to Earth
in 2006. The "Send Your Name to a Comet" effort has drawn attention from
around the world as people submit their names via the Internet to the
Stardust Project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
"We wanted to honor the memory of those who fell in the war," said
Project Manager Dr. Kenneth Atkins, himself a Vietnam-era Air Force pilot
with the Strategic Air Command from 1959 to 1968. "This is also an
opportunity for veterans, their families and loved ones to create a special
remembrance by having their names united on this peaceful exploration of
space," he added.
Included is the name of Air Force pilot Michael J. Blassie, whose
remains were this week identified and disinterred from the Tomb of the
Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Atkins of JPL and Scruggs of the Vietnam Memorial both hope to link
their education efforts to broaden the audiences of their respective
organizations. The Stardust project hopes to exhibit all the collected names
in a museum after the comet sample has returned to Earth, Atkins said.
The names are electronically etched onto a fingernail-size silicon
chip at JPL's Microdevices Lab. Writing on the microchip is so small that
about 80 letters would equal the width of a human hair. Once inscribed, the
names can be read only with the aid of an electron microscope.
The web page and a project-sponsored network of educators across the
country are two of the main efforts Stardust is using to bring information
about the mission, its science plans and eventual discoveries to as broad an
audience as possible.
Scientists have long sought a direct sample of a comet particle
because these icy bodies are thought to be nearly pristine examples of the
original material from which the Sun and planets were born 4.6 billion years
ago. Stardust's mission is to travel to within 150 kilometers (100 miles) of
the nucleus of Comet Wild-2 (pronounced "Vilt-2"), gather comet dust
particles and deliver them back to Earth. En route to the comet, Stardust
will attempt to capture interstellar particles that are believed to be
blowing through the solar system. In January 2006, mission plans call for
the Stardust sample return capsule to parachute to a designated landing spot
in the Utah desert .
Names may only be submitted electronically and may be sent to the
Stardust web page at . Those submitting their