Erica Hupp/Merrilee Fellows
(202) 358-1237/ (818) 393-0754
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Jan. 12, 2006
NASA's Comet Hunter on Final Approach for Sunday Landing
NASA's Stardust mission return capsule will land Sunday at approximately 5:12 a.m. EST (3:12 MST) on the Utah Test and Training Range. Stardust is completing a 2.88 billion mile round-trip odyssey to capture and return cometary and interstellar dust particles to Earth.
The spacecraft performs its last maneuver to put it on the correct path to enter the atmosphere tomorrow at 11:53 p.m. EST (9:53 p.m. MST). The speed of the capsule, as it enters the atmosphere at 28,860 mph, will be the fastest ever of any human-made object, surpassing the record set in May 1969 by the returning Apollo 10 command module.
The capsule will release a parachute at approximately 105,000 feet and descend to the salt flats. Weather permitting, it will be recovered by helicopter teams and taken to a clean room at the Michael Army Airfield, Dugway Proving Ground for initial processing.
Stardust launched on Feb. 7, 1999, and encountered comet Wild 2 on Jan. 2, 2004. It flew less than 150 miles from the comet's nucleus to capture tiny grains of dust. During the voyage, the spacecraft captured bits of interstellar dust streaming into the solar system from other parts of the galaxy. Scientists believe these precious samples will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the solar system. For Stardust information on the Web, visit:
NASA TV coverage starts Sunday at 4:30 a.m. EST (6:30 a.m. MST) on the Public (101), Education (102) and Media (103) channels. NASA TV is available on an MPEG-2 digital C-band signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. In Alaska and Hawaii, it's available on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization. For NASA TV information and schedules on the Web, visit:
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