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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- The first stage of a Boeing Delta II rocket is lifted to its vertical position on the tower at Launch Complex 17, Cape Canaveral Air Station. The rocket will carry the Stardust spacecraft into space for a close encounter with the comet Wild 2 in January 2004. Using a medium called aerogel, it will capture comet particles flying off the nucleus of the comet, plus collect interstellar dust for later analysis. The collected samples will return to Earth in a Sample Return Capsule to be jettisoned as Stardust swings by Earth in January 2006. Stardust is scheduled to be launched on Feb. 6, 1999.