MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEJuly 1, 1998
NAMES ON VIETNAM WAR MEMORIAL WALL TO FLY IN SPACE
Names inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in
Washington, D.C. will be engraved on a microchip that will fly in
space on NASA's Stardust mission to a comet, project officials
The names will join those of more than 400,000 people who
have already submitted their names to fly, free-of-charge, on the
Stardust spacecraft, which is scheduled for launch next February
on a round-trip to a comet.
"This almost will be like sending a miniature version of the
Vietnam Memorial into space as an eternal tribute to those who
fell in America's longest war," said Jan Scruggs, founder and
president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. There are
58,214 names inscribed on the memorial, Scruggs said.
Approximately 2,500,000 people visit "The Wall" each year, making
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial the most visited in Washington,
Stardust's prime mission is to return a sample of comet dust
to Earth in 2006. The "Send Your Name to a Comet" effort has
drawn attention from around the world as people submit their
names via the Internet to the Stardust Project at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
"We wanted to honor the memory of those who fell in the
war," said Project Manager Dr. Kenneth Atkins, himself a Vietnam-
era Air Force pilot with the Strategic Air Command from 1959 to
1968. "This is also an opportunity for veterans, their families
and loved ones to create a special remembrance by having their
names united on this peaceful exploration of space," he added.
Included is the name of Air Force pilot Michael J. Blassie,
whose remains were this week identified and disinterred from the
Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Atkins of JPL and Scruggs of the Vietnam Memorial both hope
to link their education efforts to broaden the audiences of their
respective organizations. The Stardust project hopes to exhibit
all the collected names in a museum after the comet sample has
returned to Earth, Atkins said.
The names are electronically etched onto a fingernail-size
silicon chip at JPL's Microdevices Lab. Writing on the microchip
is so small that about 80 letters would equal the width of a
human hair. Once inscribed, the names can be read only with the
aid of an electron microscope.
The web page and a project-sponsored network of educators
across the country are two of the main efforts Stardust is using
to bring information about the mission, its science plans and
eventual discoveries to as broad an audience as possible.
Scientists have long sought a direct sample of a comet
particle because these icy bodies are thought to be nearly
pristine examples of the original material from which the Sun and
planets were born 4.6 billion years ago. Stardust's mission is
to travel to within 150 kilometers (100 miles) of the nucleus of
Comet Wild-2 (pronounced "Vilt-2"), gather comet dust particles
and deliver them back to Earth. En route to the comet, Stardust
will attempt to capture interstellar particles that are believed
to be blowing through the solar system. In January 2006, mission
plans call for the Stardust sample return capsule to parachute to
a designated landing spot in the Utah desert .
Names may only be submitted electronically and may be sent
to the Stardust web page at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov . Those
submitting their names are granting permission for the Stardust
project and its partners to use the names submitted in possible
future exhibits and/or publications. More information about the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is at http://www.vvmf.org .
Stardust, managed for NASA's Space Science Division and is a
collaborative partnership between the University of Washington,
Lockheed Martin Astronautics, and JPL/Caltech. Stardust is the
fourth mission to be chosen under NASA's Discovery Program of
low-cost solar system projects, and follows the Mars Pathfinder,
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) and Lunar Prospector
missions. The goal of the Discovery Program is to launch many
small missions that perform focused science with fast turn-around
times, cost less than $150 million (in fiscal year 1992 dollars)
to build, and are joint efforts with industry, small business and
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.