Launch: February 7, 1999
Mass: 385 kilograms (848 pounds) total, consisting of 254-kilogram (560-pound)
spacecraft and 46-kilogram (101-pound) sample return capsule, plus 85 kilograms (187 pounds) fuel
Science-related subsystems: Aerogel dust collectors, sample return capsule, comet
and interstellar dust analyzer, dust flux monitor, navigation camera
In the early 1990s, NASA established a program called Discovery to competitively
select proposals for low-cost solar system exploration missions with highly focused
Stardust, the fourth Discovery mission, is sending a spacecraft to fly through the cloud of dust that surrounds
the nucleus of a comet -- and, for the first time ever, bring cometary material back to
Stardust is the first U.S. mission dedicated solely to a comet and will be the first to
return extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the Moon. Stardust's main
objective is to capture a sample from a well-preserved comet called Wild-2 (pronounced
Launched February 7, 1999 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Delta II rocket, Stardust
collected interstellar dust as it flew through the solar system in spring 2000.
On January 15, 2001, the spacecraft executed a flyby of Earth. In summer and fall
2002, the spacecraft will again collect interstellar dust.
On January 2, 2004, Stardust will fly through comet Wild-2 and collect cometary particles for analysis. On January 15, 2006, samples
of comet and interstellar dust will be delivered in a return capsule that will land
in the Utah desert. Through the course of the entire mission, Stardust will have
flown a total of 5.2 billion kilometers (3.2 billion miles).
Managed by JPL, the mission is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Donald C. Brownlee of
the University of Washington. The spacecraft was designed and built by Lockheed
Martin Astronautics, Denver.
For more information, see the Stardust