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1. Stardust is
the first U.S. mission launched to robotically
obtain samples in deep space and return them to
2. Stardust is
the first NASA mission dedicated to exploring
3. Comets are
leftover materials that formed of the planets
and the Sun more than 4.5 billion years ago.
4. Comets contain
many of the organic materials thought to be essential
for the origin of life.
5. In the early
Solar System, comets bombarded the planets, repeatedly
6. The space
object that struck Earth 65 million years ago,
causing the dinosaurs to become extinct, may have
been a comet.
7. Comet Wild
2, the destination of Stardust, almost collided
with Jupiter in 1974, causing its orbit to be
deflected closer to the Sun.
8. The Stardust
spacecraft passes Comet Wild 2 at 13,000 mph (21,000
kph), over six times faster than a speeding bullet.
9. At this speed,
a Whipple Shield - a stack of five sheets of carbon
filament and ceramic cloths each spaced 2"
apart - can safely protect the spacecraft.
10. It will take
several hours to fly through the coma - the cloud
of dust and gas coming off the comet's nucleus.
It will fly through the part of the coma ahead
of the comet nucleus.
11. Most particles
from a comet are smaller than the diameter of
a human hair.
12. Comet particles
will be captured using a material called aerogel.
13. Aerogel is
a special type of foamed glass, made so lightweight
that it is barely visible and almost floats in
14. Comet particles
make carrot-shaped tunnels in the aerogel as they
are stopped. At the pointed tip of each tunnel
a tiny particle will be found.
15. Less than
one-thousandth of an ounce of cometary dust will
16. More than
1,000 of the particles collected will be large
enough for complete scientific analysis, plus
millions of smaller particles can be analyzed
17. Some of the
powerful scientific instruments on Earth, used
to study the cometary material, are more than
100 times larger and heavier than the spacecraft
hope to collect more than 100 particles from a
newly discovered beam of particles streaming into
our Solar System from other stars in outer space.
19. By circling
back to swing by Earth to get a gravitational
slingshot out to the comet, Stardust uses a smaller
rocket. This saves over 8 million dollars.
20. The spacecraft
will travel 2 billion miles to meet Comet Wild
2, and another 1 billion miles to get back home.
21. During its
7 years in space, the Stardust spacecraft races
along at an average speed of 48,000 mph (78,000
22. The return
capsule will reenter Earth's atmosphere on Sunday,
Jan. 15, 2006, at 2:45 a.m. Mountain Time and
parachute in Utah at the UTTR.
23. Comets have
long amazed people. Since ancient times, myths
of their origins and their effect on Earth have
made us curious about them.
includes international participation. For example,
a German instrument will analyze, as they are
gathered, volatile ice grains and organic materials
in comet particles.
26. During the
comet flyby, giant 20-story tall antennas on Earth,
called the Deep Space Network, will receive transmissions
of pictures and other scientific data.
27. In terms
of distance from the Sun, Stardust will travel
well beyond Mars and over half the distance to
28. At the farthest
distance, the solar arrays must generate enough
electricity to operate the entire spacecraft with
only 15% the sunlight intensity it has at Earth.
29. The Stardust
capsule hits the Earth's atmosphere at 28,000
mph, faster than the Apollo Mission capsules and
70% faster than the reentry velocity of the Shuttle.
must endure five shocking events: launch, flyby,
atmospheric entry, parachute snap, and touchdown,
sustaining loads up to 100 times the force due
is the first U.S. mission designed to return samples
from another body since the Apollo missions to
32. The Stardust
Outreach program includes premier educational
and public programs: the Virginia Space Grant
Consortium, Space Explorers Inc., and the JPL
33. You can learn
all about Stardust, see its pictures and keep
up to date by accessing its Web Site on the Internet
Last updated September 28, 2005