Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA spacecraft prepares for Valentine's Day comet rendezvous

Date:
February 7, 2011
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's Stardust-NExT spacecraft is nearing a celestial date with comet Tempel 1 at approximately 8:37 p.m. PST (11:37 p.m. EST), on Feb. 14. The mission will allow scientists for the first time to look for changes on a comet's surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun. The Stardust-NExT, or New Exploration of Tempel, spacecraft will take high-resolution images during the encounter, and attempt to measure the composition, distribution, and flux of dust emitted into the coma, or material surrounding the comet's nucleus. Data from the mission will provide important new information on how Jupiter-family comets evolved and formed.

Artist rendering of Stardust-NExT spacecraft.
Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA's Stardust-NExT spacecraft is nearing a celestial date with comet Tempel 1 at approximately 8:37 p.m. PST (11:37 p.m. EST), on Feb. 14. The mission will allow scientists for the first time to look for changes on a comet's surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun.

The Stardust-NExT, or New Exploration of Tempel, spacecraft will take high-resolution images during the encounter, and attempt to measure the composition, distribution, and flux of dust emitted into the coma, or material surrounding the comet's nucleus. Data from the mission will provide important new information on how Jupiter-family comets evolved and formed.

The mission will expand the investigation of the comet initiated by NASA's Deep Impact mission. In July 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft delivered an impactor to the surface of Tempel 1 to study its composition. The Stardust spacecraft may capture an image of the crater created by the impactor. This would be an added bonus to the huge amount of data that mission scientists expect to obtain.

"Every day we are getting closer and closer and more and more excited about answering some fundamental questions about comets," said Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. "Going back for another look at Tempel 1 will provide new insights on how comets work and how they were put together four-and-a-half billion years ago."

At approximately 336 million kilometers (209 million miles) away from Earth, Stardust-NExT will be almost on the exact opposite side of the solar system at the time of the encounter. During the flyby, the spacecraft will take 72 images and store them in an onboard computer.

Initial raw images from the flyby will be sent to Earth for processing that will begin at approximately midnight PST (3 a.m. EST) on Feb. 15. Images are expected to be available at approximately 1:30 a.m. PST (4:30 a.m. EST).

As of Jan. 19, the spacecraft was approximately 24.6 million kilometers (15.3 million miles) away from its encounter. Since 2007, Stardust-NExT executed eight flight path correction maneuvers, logged four circuits around the sun and used one Earth gravity assist to meet up with Tempel 1.

Another three maneuvers are planned to refine the spacecraft's path to the comet. Tempel 1's orbit takes it as close in to the sun as the orbit of Mars and almost as far away as the orbit of Jupiter. The spacecraft is expected to fly past the nearly 6-kilometer-wide comet (3.7 miles) at a distance of approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles).

In 2004, the Stardust mission became the first to collect particles directly from comet Wild 2, as well as interstellar dust. Samples were returned in 2006 for study via a capsule that detached from the spacecraft and parachuted to the ground southwest of Salt Lake City. Mission controllers placed the still viable Stardust spacecraft on a trajectory that could potentially reuse the flight system if a target of opportunity presented itself.

In January 2007, NASA re-christened the mission Stardust-NExT and began a four-and-a-half year journey to comet Tempel 1.

"You could say our spacecraft is a seasoned veteran of cometary campaigns," said Tim Larson, project manager for Stardust-NExT at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's been half-way to Jupiter, executed picture-perfect flybys of an asteroid and a comet, collected cometary material for return to Earth, then headed back out into the void again, where we asked it to go head-to-head with a second comet nucleus."

The mission team expects this flyby to write the final chapter of the spacecraft's success-filled story. The spacecraft is nearly out of fuel as it approaches 12 years of space travel, logging almost 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) since launch in 1999. This flyby and planned post-encounter imaging are expected to consume the remaining fuel.

JPL manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

For more information about the Stardust-NExT mission, visit: http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA spacecraft prepares for Valentine's Day comet rendezvous." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119111111.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2011, February 7). NASA spacecraft prepares for Valentine's Day comet rendezvous. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119111111.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA spacecraft prepares for Valentine's Day comet rendezvous." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119111111.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins