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

Lab Soon to Get First Comet Samples, Open to Media Dec. 22
The NASA Johnson Space Center scientists and equipment that next month will study the first samples gathered from a comet will be available to media Dec. 22.

The first-ever particles gathered from a comet by a spacecraft are scheduled to be returned to Earth with a landing in Utah on Jan. 15, 2006. They will be transported to JSC for examination Jan. 17. The samples will help scientists better understand the nature of comets and their role in the early solar system.

NASA's Stardust spacecraft collected particles from comet Wild 2 in 2004 and will be completing a two-year, 708-million-mile trek when it returns to Earth. The capsule containing the particles will be transported to JSC and opened in the Stardust curatorial facility. The samples will be examined in the Stardust Laboratory and distributed to 180 scientists worldwide.

Media representatives may view the lab and interview members of the Stardust science team at 10 a.m. CST Thursday, Dec. 22. Media planning to attend should contact the JSC Newsroom at (281) 483-5111 by 5 p.m. Dec. 21.

The Stardust spacecraft was launched in February 1999. It encountered comet Wild 2 on Jan. 2, 2004. In addition to capturing samples of cometary material, Stardust collected grains from a stream of particles from interstellar space—samples of distant stars and supernovae. The interstellar particles will reveal details of star birth and star death. The spacecraft will return a capsule containing the samples to the Utah Test and Training Range.

Stardust is part of NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, highly focused science missions. The spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

For more information on the Stardust mission, visit:

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