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Keith Henry
Phone: (757) 864-6120, (757) 344-7211, (mobile)
Media Availability Before Return of Stardust Spacecraft

NASA Langley researchers will be closely watching the long-awaited return of the NASA Stardust spacecraft, set to return to Earth after a seven-year journey through the solar system collecting dust particles from the comet Wild-2.

As with the successful entry, descent and landing of the Mars Exploration Rovers on to the Red Planet in 2004, Langley specialists have worked to help ensure that the Stardust return capsule will be in the target zone for its much-anticipated atmospheric entry. Unlike the Mars mission, the Stardust spacecraft is returning to Earth and will land using a parachute at the U. S. Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range. The capsule is on target for Earth reentry Jan. 15 shortly before 5 a.m. EST.

On Dec. 21 from 2-3 p.m. EST, NASA Langley Stardust spokespersons will be available to address Langley's role in the Stardust comet dust sample return mission, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The Langley media availability will immediately follow a nationally televised news briefing that will originate from Washington, D.C. The Washington briefing will be conducted from 1-2 p.m. EST and can be viewed by local media in the Langley Newsroom.

NASA Langley helped design the entry capsule for Stardust in the areas of flight dynamics, aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics during the spacecraft's development phase. NASA Langley is part of the Navigation Operations Team, helping predict the landing location and the size of the landing footprint that will be used to properly position the recovery team. Langley researchers are responsible for the entry, descent and landing analysis for the re-entry for the project. This information is used to support the reentry go/no-go decision process.

For information and images regarding the Stardust sample return mission on the Web, visit:


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