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Emily LakdawallaMarch 25, 2011

The end of Stardust

So, it's over. Stardust's last transmission to Earth was yesterday, March 24, 2011 at 23:33 UTC. Its final act was to burn up all of its last remaining fuel, a move intended to help engineers validate their guesses for how much fuel actually remained in the tanks.

The press release stated that Stardust's rockets burned for 146 seconds, but didn't specify how much fuel this used, or whether it was close to or far from what they had estimated: they state in the press release that the numbers still have to be crunched. This final burn was comparable in size to one of its late-mission trajectory correction maneuvers, TCM 31, in which it burned about 300 grams of fuel in 130 seconds, changing its speed by 2.6 meters per second. There were only two other maneuvers after TCM 31, performed in the final days before the Tempel 1 flyby: TCM 32, which consumed 69 grams of fuel to change the velocity by 0.56 meters per second, and TCM 33, which burned for 50 seconds to change the velocity by 0.9 meters per second. (All of these numbers are from the mission status reports on the Stardust-NExT website.)

Thank you, Stardust!

Stardust burning to depletion

NASA / JPL

Stardust burning to depletion

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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