NASA Hosting Events for Valentine's Night Comet Encounter

Artist rendering of Stardust-NExT spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL Artist rendering of Stardust-NExT spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL
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February 08, 2011

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA will host several live activities for the Stardust-NExT mission's close encounter with comet Tempel 1. The closest approach is expected at approximately 8:37 p.m. PST (11:37 p.m. EST) on Feb. 14, with confirmation received on Earth at about 8:56 p.m. PST (11:56 p.m. EST).

Live coverage of the Tempel 1 encounter will begin at 8:30 p.m. PST on Feb. 14 on NASA Television and the agency's website. The coverage will include live commentary from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and video from Lockheed Martin Space System's mission support area in Denver.

Live coverage of a news briefing is planned for 10 a.m. PST on Feb. 15. Scheduled participants are:
-- Ed Weiler, NASA associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, Washington
-- Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
-- Tim Larson, Stardust-NExT project manager, JPL
-- Don Brownlee, Stardust-NExT co-investigator, University of Washington, Seattle

Mission coverage schedule (all times PST and subject to change):

-- 8:30 to 10 p.m., Feb. 14: Live NASA TV commentary begins from mission control; includes coverage of closest approach and the re-establishment of contact with the spacecraft following the encounter.

-- Midnight to 1:30 a.m., Feb. 15: NASA TV commentary will chronicle the arrival and processing of the first five of 72 close-approach images the team expects to be downlinked after the encounter. The images are expected to include a close-up view of the comet's surface.

-- 10 a.m., Feb. 15: News briefing

-- Starting on Feb. 9, NASA TV will air Stardust-NExT mission animation and other video during its Video File segments. For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv .

-- Commentary and the news conference will also be carried live on one of JPL's Ustream channels. During events, viewers can engage in a real-time chat and submit questions to the Stardust-NExT team at: http://www.ustream.tv/user/NASAJPL2 .

The public can watch a real-time animation of the Stardust-NExT comet flyby using NASA's new "Eyes on the Solar System" Web tool. JPL created this 3-D environment, which allows people to explore the solar system from their computers. It is available at: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes .

This flyby of Tempel 1 will give scientists an opportunity to look for changes on the comet's surface since it was visited by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. Since then, Tempel 1 has completed one orbit of the sun, and scientists are looking forward to monitoring any differences in the comet.

During its 12 years in space, Stardust became the first spacecraft to collect samples of a comet (Wild 2 in 2004), which were delivered to Earth in 2006 for study. The Stardust-NExT mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations.

A press kit and other detailed information about Stardust-NExT is available at: http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov .

DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

Blaine Friedlander 607-254-6235
Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
bpf2@cornell.edu

2011-044b

Related Links

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