NASA Stardust Capsule to Go on Display at Smithsonian
PASADENA, Calif. -- Having returned the world's first particles
from a comet, NASA's Stardust sample return capsule will join the
collection of flight icons in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space
Museum in Washington. The capsule will go on public display in the
museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery on Oct. 1, the 50th anniversary
Stardust, comprising a spacecraft and capsule, completed a seven-year,
4.8-billion-kilometer (3-billion-mile) journey in 2006. A tennis racket-like,
aerogel-lined collector was extended to capture particles as the
spacecraft flew within 241 kilometers (150 miles) of comet Wild 2 in
January 2004. Carrying the collected particles, the capsule returned to
Earth Jan. 15, 2006, landing in Utah. Two days later, it was transported
to a curatorial facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"Very few people get to build something, launch it into space, see it
be successful and then get it back in their hands," said Karen McNamara,
Johnson recovery lead for the Stardust mission. "To be able to share this
with the public is phenomenal."
The capsule joins the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's
Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia that carried
the first men to walk on the moon.
"The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum is delighted to
add to the National Collection the Stardust return capsule," said Roger Launius,
senior curator of the Division of Space History at the museum. "As one of
the premier space science missions of the recent past, Stardust will take
its place alongside other iconic objects from the history of air and spaceflight.
I look forward to helping to impart more knowledge to our visitors about
the makeup of the universe using this significant and pathbreaking object."
Hardware provided to the Smithsonian includes actual flight components.
Elements relevant to the science goals of the mission remain with NASA.
After successfully completing its mission, Stardust will use its flight-proven
hardware to perform a new, previously unplanned investigation. The
mission, called Stardust-NExT, will revisit comet 9P/Tempel 1. This
investigation will provide the first look at the changes to a comet
nucleus produced after a close approach to the sun. It will also mark
the first time a comet has ever been revisited.
"Usually, when a piece of your spacecraft goes into the Smithsonian, that
means the mission's over," said Stardust-NExT project manager Rick Grammier,
of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "But the Stardust
spacecraft is still doing the job for NASA and in February 2011, it will fly
within 193 kilometers (120 miles) of the comet."
Stardust-Next is a low-cost, Discovery Program mission for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate. JPL manages the project. Joseph Veverka of Cornell University in
Ithaca, N.Y., is the mission's principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space
Systems of Denver manages mission operations.
For information about the Stardust mission on the Web, visit:
Images of the Stardust capsule being prepared for shipment can be found
NASA Television will air video file material to illustrate this story.
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JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Media contacts: DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
William P. Jeffs 281-483-5111
Johnson Space Center, Houston