6 Sep 2002
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
STARDUST Status Report
All subsystems were performing normally during the spacecraft's one scheduled period of contact through the Deep Space Network in the past week.
Mirror alignment for the Navigation Camera was calibrated, using new software for pattern-matching and selecting small windows of interest within larger fields of view. A total of 23 images were taken for the calibration. Five are full-frame images and 18 are pattern-matched and windowed images. Playback will be completed next week. The windowed images were taken at 10-degree steps of mirror pointing, up to 180 degrees. Indications are that the full-frame images were successful. Some of the windowed images may not have included enough stars for the pattern-matching to work. Star images may have been too dim or too smeared to be detected at the brightness threshold set by the software. Enough of the windowed images will be successful to help engineers understand the camera performance and assess what detection threshold level to set in the future.
Representatives of the Genesis Project and of the Utah Test and Training Range met for an annual planning update. This military range is where Genesis will return its collected sample material to Earth in September 2004. The meeting's participants discussed operations prior to and during Earth entry, tracking during Earth entry and landing, handling of the return capsule at the recovery site and preparation of the capsule at a hanger for aircraft delivery to the Johnson Space Center Curatorial Facility in Texas. The collected particles will be analyzed and curated at the Johnson facility. The Utah Test and Training Range is under high security, and maintaining the integrity of the sample-return capsule is an absolute necessity, so accommodating anyone other than key personnel near the capsule will be difficult.
For more information on the Stardust mission -- the first ever comet sample return mission -- please visit the Stardust home page.