Stardust Mission Status Report
NASA's Stardust spacecraft was placed into hibernation mode yesterday.
Stardust successfully returned to Earth samples of a comet via its sample
return capsule on Jan. 15. The spacecraft has logged almost seven
years of flight.
Image right: Artist concept of Stardust. + Browse version of image
"We sang our spacecraft to sleep today with a melody of digital ones and
zeros," said Tom Duxbury, Stardust project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Stardust has performed flawlessly these last
seven years and 2.88 billion miles and deserves a rest for a while, like
the rest of the team."
The "song" was actually a series of commands that was sent up to the
spacecraft yesterday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. Pacific time (7 p.m. Eastern time).
The commands deactivated all but a few essential systems, such as Stardust's
solar arrays and receive antenna - which will remain powered on. This long-term
hibernation state could allow for almost indefinite (tens of years) out-of-contact
operations while maintaining the spacecraft health.
"Placing Stardust in hibernation gives us options to possibly reuse it in the
future," said Dr. Tom Morgan, Stardust Program Executive at NASA Headquarters,
Washington. "The mission has already been a great success, but if at all possible
we may want to add even more scientific dividends to this remarkable mission's
record of achievement."
The Stardust spacecraft is currently in an orbit that travels from a little
closer to the Sun than that of the Earth to well beyond the orbit of Mars. It
will next fly past Earth on January 14, 2009, at a distance of about 1 million
kilometers (621,300 miles).
NASA's Stardust sample return mission successfully concluded its prime mission on
Jan. 15, 2006, when its sample return capsule carrying cometary and interstellar
particles successfully touched down at 2:10 a.m. Pacific time (3:10 a.m. Mountain time)
in the desert salt flats of the Utah Test and Training Range.
Stardust scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston are currently analyzing
what could be considered a treasure-trove of cometary and interstellar dust samples
that exceeded their grandest expectations. Scientists believe these precious samples
will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Stardust mission for
NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver,
developed and operated the spacecraft.
For information about the Stardust mission on the Web, visit www.nasa.gov/stardust
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit http://www.nasa.gov/home
D.C. Agle (818) 393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dwayne Brown/Merrilee Fellows (202) 358-1726/ (818) 393-0754
NASA Headquarters, Washington