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Stardust Mission Status

January 26, 2000

NASA's Stardust spacecraft has successfully completed a three-part deep space maneuver designed to keep it on target for an Earth gravity assist in January 2001. That gravity assist will propel the spacecraft toward its 2004 rendezvous with the Comet Wild-2.

The maneuver consisted of a trio of propulsion firings performed on January 18, 20 and 22 to achieve velocity changes of 58, 52, and 48 meters per second, respectively (about 130, 116 and 107 miles per hour). Each firing lasted for about 30 minutes. With these three engine burns plus a short firing of 11 meters per second (25 miles per hour) made in late December, the flight team changed the spacecraft velocity by about 171 meters per second (383 miles per hour), and put Stardust on target for next year's swingby of Earth.

Stardust's mission is to collect samples of comet dust from Wild-2 for return to Earth in 2006. While en route, the spacecraft will also attempt to gather samples of interstellar dust particles for study on Earth. Engineers plan to command Stardust to extend its dust collector on February 22 in order to begin collecting interstellar dust from a stream that flows into our solar system.

Stardust was launched on February 7, 1999. The principal investigator for the Stardust mission is Dr. Donald C. Brownlee of the University of Washington. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO, built and operates the spacecraft. Its instruments were provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and the Max Planck Institute, Garching, Germany. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

For more information on the STARDUST mission - the first ever comet sample return mission - please visit the STARDUST home page:



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