WHAT: The Leonid meteor shower and the Stardust Comet Sample Return Mission. More than 40,000 TONS of comet debris like the Leonid shower hit the Earth every year. On Feb. 6, 1999, NASA is scheduled to launch a spacecraft to collect and bring back less than a thimbleful of these unique particles. Comets are believed to contain the original building blocks of the planets, perhaps those of life itself. It is expected the tiny particles Stardust brings back will reveal ingredients that formed the planets.
WHO: University of Washington astronomy Professor Donald Brownlee, a renowned space particle expert and chief scientist for Stardust. The spacecraft is to meet Comet Wild 2 (“Vilt-2″), fly through the cloud of gases and dust around the head of the comet and use an exotic, jelly-like glass called aerogel to collect particles flying off the comet. In 2006, the Stardust samples will parachute to Earth in a clamshell-like re-entry capsule and come to rest in the Utah desert. Brownlee and scientists around the world will then study the samples.
VIDEO: A NASA Video File on Stardust will run on NASA TV Monday, Nov. 16, at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. PST. It will include interviews, mission animation and B-roll footage of the spacecraft, built in Denver and delivered to the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, Nov. 12. The clips may be assembled as you wish for a story. NASA TV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.
(The Stardust web site is at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov)
For more information, contact Brownlee after 9 a.m. Monday at (206) 543-8575 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org