NASA's Comet Hunter on Final Approach for Sunday Landing
NASA's Stardust mission return capsule will land Sunday, Jan. 15, at approximately
2:12 a.m. Pacific time (3:12 a.m. Mountain time) 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.
Image right: Artist's concept of Stardust approaching Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL + Browse version of image
The spacecraft performs its last maneuver to put it on the correct path?to enter Earth's
atmosphere on Friday, Jan. 13, at 8:53 p.m. Pacific time (9:53 p.m. Mountain time). The
speed of the sample return capsule as it enters Earth's atmosphere at 46,440 kilometers
per hour (28,860 miles per hour) will be the greatest of any human-made object on record.
The previous record was set in May 1969 by the returning Apollo 10 command module.
The capsule will release a parachute at approximately 32 kilometers (105,000 feet) and
descend to the salt flats. Weather permitting, it will be recovered by helicopter teams
and taken to a cleanroom at the Michael Army Air Field, Dugway Proving Ground, for
Stardust launched on Feb. 7, 1999, and encountered comet Wild 2 on Jan. 2, 2004. It flew
less than 241 kilometers (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. Additional Stardust information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/stardust
A synopsis of the mission's final hours is online at
. A brief timeline
is at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stardust/timeline/index.html
NASA TV coverage of the landing starts Sunday at 1:30 a.m. Pacific time (2:30 a.m.
Mountain time) 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 http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
D.C. Agle (818) 354-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Erica Hupp/Merrilee Fellows (202) 358-1237/ (818) 393-0754
NASA Headquarters, Washington