Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, have begun receiving the first of 72 anticipated images of comet Tempel 1 taken by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.
This is a bonus mission for the comet chaser, which previously flew past comet Wild 2 and returned samples from its coma to Earth. During this bonus encounter, the plan called for the spacecraft to take images of the comet's surface to observe what changes occurred since a NASA spacecraft last visited. (NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft executed an encounter with Tempel 1 in July 2005).
Stardust-NExT is a low-cost mission that will expand the investigation of comet Tempel 1 initiated by NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages Stardust-NExT for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations.
Comet hunter's first images on the ground
Stardust-NExT mission homepage: http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov
NASA's most-traveled comet-hunter (video)