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An A/CC Special Topic:


NASA/JPL & University of Washington Comet Mission

Updated: 29 December 2003
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Latest news
As the Stardust spacecraft approaches comet 81P/Wild 2 [link|alt] for a flyby on the second day of 2004, the key pages to watch for the latest news are:

Mission home pages Earlier 2003 news
An article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune 30 June 2003 tells about the coming workload for the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) during a period when the Stardust mission flies-by comet 81P/Wild 2 and several spacecraft arrive at Mars.
      A/CC posted an animation and other images 27 June 2003 from the previous November's flyby of asteroid 5535 Annefrank.
      JPL issued a news release 19 June that, "With 198 days before its historic rendezvous with a comet, NASA's Stardust spacecraft successfully completed the mission's third deep space maneuver." The Stardust Status Reports of June 20th and July 18th also tell about that operation and a correction maneuver (more about hydrazine).
      The Meteoritical Society posted a news item 29 April about allocating particle samples when returned from 81P/Wild 2 by Stardust mission. A workshop on the nature of interplanetary and interstellar dust will be held in August as the first of a series, with another next year about extracting particles from the aerogel collecting medium.
Older news
There was brief news in January 2003, in mission status reports of the 17th (dust analyzer testing), 24th, and 31st.
      The Stardust mission Status Report of 22 Nov. told about testing a possible new node for the Deep Space Network (see news item). The reports of 27 Nov. and 6 Dec. were about routine operations, while the 13 Dec. report is that 126 days of interstellar dust collection ended according to plan on the 9th.
      The 15 Nov. 2002 mission Status Report says all Nov. 2nd Annefrank flyby images have been received. See A/CC's flyby coverage.
      The 11 Oct. mission Status Report is that a "trajectory correction maneuver was completed successfully on October 9th," and that revised encounter instructions had been successfully tested in simulation, "based on lessons learned during the Deep Space 1 spacecraft's encounter with comet Borrelly last year."
      On its way to meet and sample comet 81P/Wild 2's gas and dust in 2004, the Stardust spacecraft on 5 August 2002 re-engaged its other mission, to collect interstellar dust, as explained in JPL's 6 August news release and the 9 August mission status report. CNN posted a 9 August article. The 26 Sept. mission Status Report said the spacecraft was continuing to sweep for interstellar dust.

Earlier news coverage
See these reports on (newest first): "JPL's Aerogel Makes Record Books As Lightest Solid" (10 May 2002), "Stardust Spacecraft Sets Solar-Powered Record" (19 April 2002), "Stardust Powers On; More Matter Collected, Plus: Galileo Update" (21 Feb. 2001), "Flawed Stardust Camera Improved, Snaps Moon Picture" (22 Jan. 2001), and "Stardust Heads for Comet" (16 Jan. 2001).

Mission launch
For information about the 7 Feb. 1999 mission launch, with links to a countdown journal, to images and movies, and to pre-launch mission preview articles, see Florida Today's Delta/Stardust page. Stardust was launched with Boeing Delta 2 rocket.

The Stardust spacecraft and its sample return capsule were built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Colorado, which also has an ongoing role in flight operations (7 Feb. 1999 launch news release). The craft's antennas were designed and built at New Mexico State Univ.

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