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NASA broadcasts Valentine's night comet encounter

Posted: February 11, 2011 2:11 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2011 5:00 p.m.
 

NASA will host several live media activities for the Stardust-NExT mission's close encounter with comet Tempel 1.

The closest approach is expected at approximately 8:37 p.m. PST, with confirmation received on Earth at about 8:56 p.m. PST on Monday, Feb. 14.

Live coverage of the Tempel 1 encounter will begin at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 14 on NASA Television and the agency's website. The coverage will include live commentary from mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., and video from Lockheed Martin Space System's mission support area in Denver.

A news briefing is planned for 10 a.m. on Feb. 15. Scheduled participants are:

* Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate
* Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator, Cornell University
* Tim Larson, Stardust-NExT project manager, JPL
* Don Brownlee, Stardust-NExT co-investigator, University of Washington, Seattle

Mission coverage schedule (all times PST and subject to change):

8:30 to 10 p.m., Feb. 14: Live NASA TV commentary begins from mission control; includes coverage of closest approach and the re-establishment of contact with the spacecraft following the encounter.

Midnight to 1:30 a.m., Feb. 15: NASA TV commentary will chronicle the arrival and processing of the first five of 72 close-approach images expected to be down linked after the encounter. The images are expected to include a close-up view of the comet's surface.

10 a.m., Feb. 15: News briefing

Starting on Feb. 9, NASA TV will air Stardust-NExT mission animation and b-roll during its Video File segments. For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit nasa.gov/ntv.

Live commentary and the news conference also will be carried live on one of JPL's Ustream channels. Viewers during events can engage in a real-time chat and submit questions to the Stardust-NExT team at ustream.tv/user/NASAJPL2.

The public can watch a real-time animation of the Stardust-NExT comet flyby using NASA's new "Eyes on the Solar System" Web tool. JPL created this 3-D environment, which allows people to explore the solar system directly from their computers. It is available at solarsystem.nasa.gov/eyes.

This flyby of Tempel 1 will give scientists an opportunity to look for changes on the comet's surface since it was visited by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft in July 2005. Since then, Tempel 1 has completed one orbit of the sun, and scientists are looking forward to monitoring any differences in the comet.

During its 12 years in space, Stardust became the first spacecraft to collect samples of a comet (Wild 2) in 2004, which were sent in 2006 to Earth for study. The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations.

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