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The mission name Stardust was suggested by Don Brownlee, the Principal Investigator on the Stardust Project. He felt the name Stardust was simple, well known, and described the scientific rational behind the mission.

Many mission names are from clever acronyms but do not mean anything to someone outside the project. Stardust, is a song, a material, a casino, an airline, and a name that many people are familiar with and have even dreamed of.

The idea behind Stardust began in the early 1980's when there was an opportunity to collect samples from Comet Halley and return them to Earth. Bob Farquhar, from Goddard Space Flight Center, and Fred Scarf, from TRW believed it would be possible to redirect a satellite already in orbit to fly past Halley. m_halley.gifThen, collect dust samples, and return close to the Earth where it might be recovered with the Shuttle. The satellite they proposed was the International Sun Earth Explorer (ISEE) already in orbit about the Earth-Moon system. It carried an unusual amount of extra fuel so that it could maneuver in the Earth-Moon system.

Mr. Farquhar cleverly realized that by flying past the Moon several times, its orbit could be changed to one that would pass Halley and then return to Earth. NASA headquarters asked if this was a doable mission and several persons at JPL and Don Brownlee, Principal Investigator on Stardust, worked feverishly on the idea. It was soon realized that the materials used on ISEE would contaminate any collected comet particles, and any returned sample would be un-analyzable. It was also quickly realized that a small dedicated spacecraft could be built to do this mission that would be very simple and low cost.

How do you design a comet catcher?

Click on: The Design

Last updated November 26, 2003
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