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Stardust Mission to Asteroids Stardust Mission to Comets

Goals: Stardust's encounter with asteroid Annefrank was used as a dress rehearsal to prepare for its primary mission to study comet Wild 2.

Accomplishments: The spacecraft passed within about 3,300 km (2,050 miles) of Annefrank and determined the asteroid is irregularly shaped, cratered and about 8 km (5 miles) in diameter. Although the main goal was to test systems and procedures for its primary mission, Stardust turned up intriguing information about Annefrank. The asteroid turned out to be about twice the size anticipated, but with a much dimmer surface.


Key Dates
7 Feb 1999:  Launch (21:04:15 UT)
2 Jan 2004:  Comet Wild 2 Encounter
15 Jan 2006:  Earth Sample Return
14 Feb 2011:  Comet Tempel-1 Flyby
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Stardust Facts Stardust is the first mission to return samples from a comet.

Aerogel (right), the material used to capture comet samples, has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world's lightest solid.

Aerogel is made of the same basic material as glass, but it is much lighter because it is 99.8 percent air.

Scientists discovered glycine, a fundamental building block of life, in samples of comet Wild 2 returned by the Stardust spacecraft.

The particles were traveling at about 6 km per second -- six times the speed of a bullet -- when they were captured by Stardust's sample collector.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Peter Jenniskens Peter Jenniskens
"I study what meteor showers and meteorites teach us about comets and asteroids, the origin of the Zodiacal cloud, and our own past and future." Read More...
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Last Updated: 2 Dec 2014