A NASA DC-8 aircraft will carry a team of scientists to observe the Stardust sample capsule as it enters Earth’s atmosphere and flies to a landing in the Utah desert at 2 a.m. PST on Jan.15, 2006. The capsule is carrying comet dust that the Stardust spacecraft captured near comet Wild-2 (VILT-TWO) in January 2004.

News media are invited to apply to be one of the journalists who will ride on the NASA DC-8 aircraft on the ‘Stardust observation rehearsal flights,” Wednesday, Jan 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. PST, and Thursday, Jan. 12, from 11:45 p.m. PST to Jan. 13, 3:30 a.m. PST. Journalists may also apply for one of a limited number of seats on the actual mission on Sunday, Jan. 15, 12:01 a.m. to 4 a.m. PST. Media tours of the aircraft will be offered on Wednesday, Jan. 11, from noon to 2 p.m. PST.

WHAT: Opportunity to fly aboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft to observe the Stardust space capsule as it enters Earth’s atmosphere. For both flights, the DC-8 will depart from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and return there.

WHEN: A tour of the DC-8 will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 11, from noon to 2 p.m. PST. Written requests to fly must be received no later than Jan. 9, and emailed to jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov and mmewhinney@mail.arc.nasa.gov. Stardust observation rehearsal flights will be held on Wednesday, Jan 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. PST and Thursday, Jan. 12, from 11:45 p.m. to Jan. 13, 3:30 a.m. PST. The Stardust observation mission flight will take place the early morning of Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006. In your request, please note if your organization agrees to provide pool coverage, as seating is limited.

WHO: Interviews with NASA DC-8 mission project manager Dave Jordan, SETI Institute scientist and principal investigator Peter Jenniskens and other Stardust mission scientists and engineers.

WHERE: NASA Ames Research Center Hangar N-211. News media representatives who wish to attend the DC-8 tour should report to Ames’ Visitor Badging Office, located at the Ames main gate. To reach Ames, take the Moffett Field exit off Highway 101 and drive east to the main gate and Visitor Badging Office. Special instructions will be issued to those journalists who are approved to fly on the DC-8.

JPL manages the Stardust mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and operates the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology. NASA’s Johnson Space Center contributed to Stardust payload development, and the Johnson Space Center will curate the sample and support analysis and sample allocation.

For more information about the Stardust mission, see: