Stardust NExT Targets Valentines Day Encounter with Comet Tempel 1

Stardust-NExT: 2 Comet Flybys with 1 Spacecraft Stardust-NExT makes history on Valentine’s Day – February, 14, 2011 – Tempel 1 is the first comet to be visited twice. Stardust will have visited 2 comets and gathered science data: Comet Wild 2 in 2004 (left) and Comet Tempel 1 in 2011 (right). Artist renderings Credit: NASA. Collage: Ken Kremer. See video below of Jan 19, 2011 Media briefing from the Science Team about plans for the Temple 1 cometary encounter

After a more than decade long journey of 6 billion kilometers, hopes are high for a celestial date in space between an icy comet and a thrusting probe on Valentine’s Day 2011. The rendezvous in space between NASA’s approaching Stardust-NExT spacecraft and Comet Tempel 1 takes place nearly on the exact opposite side of the Sun on Feb 14, 2011 at approximately 11:37 p.m. EST (8:37 p.m. PST).

The top science goal is to find out “how much the comet’s surface has changed between two close passages to the sun” since it was last visited in 2005, said principal investigator Joe Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, N,Y at a media briefing today, Jan 19, at NASA Headquarters. Indeed it’s the first time in history that a comet has been visited twice by space probes from Earth.

The lead scientists and engineers outlined the plans for the cometary flyby at the briefing. See a video of the entire briefing below. (…) Read the rest of Stardust NExT Targets Valentines Day Encounter with Comet Tempel 1 (1,094 words)

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(C) Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 4 comments | Add to del.icio.us Post

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