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William Jeffs
Johnson Space Center, Houston
Phone: (281) 483-5111

10.12.05
 
RELEASE : J05-043
 
 
NASA Prepares for Arrival of Comet Samples to Houston
 
 
Particles gathered near a comet in deep space that are due to arrive at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, in January may help scientists better understand comets and their role in the early solar system.

NASA's Stardust spacecraft, which collected particles from comet Wild 2 in January 2004, will complete its two-year, 708-million-mile trek back to Earth in January 2006. The capsule will be transported to JSC and stored in the Stardust Laboratory where scientists will make the first analyses of freshly collected cometary and interstellar particles.

Stardust recovery and science team members met at JSC the week of Oct. 3-7 to rehearse the steps that will be involved in recovering the samples from the Stardust capsule. A canister was transported to JSC and placed in the Stardust clean room. There scientists removed the Stardust sample trays and rehearsed techniques they will use to document, process and analyze the cometary and interstellar particles.

"The spacecraft recovery team and the mission science team were at JSC all week to shake down procedures for opening the sample canister and harvesting and analyzing the captured samples," said Mike Zolensky, Stardust co-investigator and NASA space scientist in JSC's Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate.

Video of the Stardust rehearsal will air on the NASA Television Video File at 2 p.m. CDT today through Friday, Oct. 14.

The Stardust spacecraft was launched in February 1999. It encountered its target, comet Wild 2, on Jan. 2, 2004. In addition to capturing samples of cometary material for return to Earth, Stardust collected grains from a stream of particles from interstellar space. The spacecraft will release a capsule containing the sample particles for landing at the Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range early Jan. 15, 2006.

Stardust, a part of NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, highly focused science missions, was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. The mission's principal investigator is astronomy professor Donald E. Brownlee of the University of Washington in Seattle.

For continental North America, NASA TV is carried on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. It's available in Alaska and Hawaii on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-7, transponder 18C, 137 degrees west longitude, 4060 MHz, vertical polarization. A Digital Video Broadcast compliant Integrated Receiver Decoder is required for reception. For information about NASA TV, including digital down link information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For more information on the Stardust mission, visit:

http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/

For more information on the JSC Stardust Curation Team, visit:

http://www-curator.jsc.nasa.gov/curator/stardust

For imagery of the Stardust team and the sample recovery rehearsal at JSC, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/multimedia/stardust.html
 

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