MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
STARDUST MISSION STATUS
October 16, 2002
Stardust will take advantage of flying near a small
asteroid next month to test many procedures the spacecraft
will use 14 months later during its encounter with its primary
science target, comet Wild-2.
Stardust will pass within about 3,000 kilometers (about
1,900 miles) of asteroid Annefrank at 04:50 Nov. 2, Universal
Time (8:50 p.m. Nov. 1, Pacific Standard Time). The spacecraft
will automatically image Annefrank using camera tracking of
the mountain-sized rock as it speeds by at 7 kilometers (4
miles) per second.
"This is an engineering test," said Thomas Duxbury,
project manager for Stardust at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We have no science goals or
science expectations at Annefrank. It's an opportunity to try
key procedures for the first time before we get to comet Wild-
2. We may identify problems that we can address before we
reach our primary target."
Annefrank is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) across. Given
the flyby distance, that's too small for a picture that would
show any surface detail, said JPL's Ray Newburn, leader of the
imaging-science team. Also, the angle of the encounter
relative to the Sun will give Stardust a view in which only a
thin crescent of the asteroid will be sunlit during approach,
providing an additional challenge for the optical-navigation
system to recognize it as a guiding light.
Aerogel dust collectors that will gather comet dust from
Wild-2 will stay open for the asteroid flyby. The Max Planck
Institute dust analyzer and the University of Chicago dust
flux monitor also will be operating. However, no dust from the
asteroid is anticipated at the distance the spacecraft will
"This will be our most challenging event since launch,"
said JPL's Robert Ryan, Stardust mission manager. "Our
spacecraft team at Lockheed Martin is testing everything in
the spacecraft simulation laboratory before we send the
commands up to the spacecraft."
Chen-wan Yen, Stardust mission design manager at JPL,
identified the opportunity for a flyby of Annefrank during the
spacecraft's four-year cruise toward Wild-2. NASA approved
the Annefrank test run this month, at no added cost.
The asteroid was discovered in 1942 and later named in
honor of Anne Frank, author of an inspiring diary of the two
years before she was taken to a Nazi concentration camp.
Stardust will bring samples of comet dust back to Earth
in 2006 to help answer fundamental questions about the origins
of the solar system. The mission's principal investigator is
Dr. Donald Brownlee, professor of astronomy at the University
of Washington, Seattle. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver,
Colo., built and operates the Stardust spacecraft. Additional
information is available online at
Stardust is a part of NASA's Discovery Program of low-
cost, highly focused science missions. JPL, a division of
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages
the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington,