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William Jeffs
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(281) 483-5111

January 18, 2005

Scientists Confirm Comet Samples, Briefing Set Thursday

Scientists have confirmed that samples from a comet and interstellar dust have been returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft.

The scientist team opened the Stardust sample return capsule on Tuesday in a special facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston.

"The collection of cometary particles has exceeded our expectations," said Dr. Donald Brownlee, Stardust principal investigator from the University of Washington, Seattle. "We were absolutely thrilled to see thousands of impacts on the aerogel."

Inside the capsule, a tennis racket-like sample tray holds the particles captured in a gel as the spacecraft flew within 149 miles of comet Wild 2 in January 2004. An opposite side of the tray holds interstellar dust particles caught streaming through the solar system by Stardust during its seven-year journey. The team is analyzing the particle capture cells and removing individual grains of comet and interstellar dust. They will be sent to select investigators worldwide.

Leaders of the science and curation teams will participate in a press conference at 10 a.m. CST Thursday from JSC. The briefing will be broadcast on NASA Television and question-and-answer capability for reporters is available from participating NASA centers. Key scientists also will be available for live interviews via satellite from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. CST Thursday.

Participants in the Thursday news conference will include:

  • Dr. Donald Brownlee, Principal Investigator, University of Washington
  • Dr. Peter Tsou, Deputy Principal Investigator, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
  • Dr. Michael Zolensky, Stardust Curator and Co-investigator, JSC
  • Dr. Carlton Allen, Astromaterials Curator, JSC
Video of the opening of the Stardust science canister and initial assessment of its contents will air on the NASA Television's Video File beginning at 2 p.m. CST today.

NASA TV's Public, Education and Media channels are available on an MPEG-2 digital C-band signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. In Alaska and Hawaii, they're on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization. A Digital Video Broadcast compliant Integrated Receiver Decoder is required for reception. For digital downlink information for each NASA TV channel, and access to NASA TV's Public Channel on the Web, visit:

Update: Jan 19 - Graphics from the Mission Briefing are now available


View of a Cometary Impact 
Into Aerogel
View of a Cometary Impact Into Aerogel
View of a Cometary Impact 
Into Aerogel
View of a Cometary Impact Into Aerogel
Stardust Material Carried 
Across the Room
Stardust Material Carried Across the Room
Looking at Stardust Material 
Sample Collection
Looking at Stardust Material Sample Collection
Successful Arrival of Stardust 
Successful Arrival of Stardust Material
Giving a Thumbs Up
Giving a Thumbs Up
Studying Stardust Material
Studying Stardust Material

Last Updated: January 19, 2006
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