Skip Navigation: Avoid going through Home page links and jump straight to content
NASA Logo - Jet Propulsion Laboratory    + View the NASA Portal
Search Stardust  
JPL Home Earth Solar System Stars & Galaxies Technology
Stardust Banner
Overview Mission Science Technology Newsroom Education Gallery Links Stardust Home
Importance of Stardust
Frequently Asked Questions
Study of Comets
Available Products
Stardust Microchip
Friends of Stardust
Contact Us

Overview graphic  
Ken Atkins Photo   Tom Duxbury Photo   Don Brownlee Photo  
Ken Atkins
Project Manager

  Tom Duxbury
Project Manager

  Don Brownlee
Project Principal Investigator


Missions with objectives of returning cometary samples had been proposed previously but the mission concepts had not been approved. The 1994 Discovery Announcement of Opportunity (AO) opened the door for missions that could be launched at a development phase cost of less than $150 million in 1992 dollars (when Discovery program was authorized by Congress). The focused mission concept for Stardust was the brainchild of Dr. Peter Tsou. Dr. Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington, who would be Principal Investigator and collaborated with Dr. Peter Tsou for the last two decades in returning samples from cosmic dust and comets. Dr. Benton Clark of Lockheed Martin led the definition of a simple spacecraft and sample return capsule to accomplish the mission.

The implementation plan was tailored to the schedule dictated by finding a trajectory that would allow the Comet P/Wild 2 to fly by Stardust at a relatively slow 6 km/sec. This would enable the capture of comet dust within aerogel. Successful particle capture up to 10 km/sec has been demonstrated at JPL. Capturing particles intact at this hypervelocity (about 6 times the speed of a rifle bullet) is a pretty incredible feat!

In the fall of 1994 the first competition for Discovery missions resulted in the selection of the Lunar Prospector and three missions to compete in a Phase A definition study. In late 1995 the Stardust mission was selected to be the fourth Discovery mission.

On February 7, 1999 the Stardust spacecraft was successfully launched aboard a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida and thus started Stardust's journey to be the first NASA mission to return particles from beyond the Earth Moon orbit.


Last updated November 3, 2009
Privacy F.A.Q. Contact Sitemap Credit
FIRST GOV + Freedom of Information Act
+ The President's Management Agenda
+ FY 2002 Agency Performance and accountability report
+ NASA Privacy Statement, Disclaimer, and Accessiblity Certification
+ Freedom to Manage
NASA Home Page Site Manager:
Aimee Whalen

Ron Baalke