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Why Comet Wild 2?
Everything About Comets
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Comets are believed to be the oldest, most primitive bodies in the solar system, possibly comprised of some of the basic building blocks of life. They contain the remains of materials used in the formation of stars and planets, holding volatile, carbon-based rich elements that are likely to provide clues about the nature of the building blocks of our solar system. Importantly, they may provide evidence that comets brought water to the Earth, making possible life.

With the prospect of comets offering this treasure house of ancient information, there is significant anticipation about what findings scientists will be able to extrapolate from a firsthand examination of cometary materials. Because the Stardust spacecraft will both return samples of material from a comet, and provide real time in-flight data about what it encounters, there is a real possibility of scientific findings that will change the way we view our origins.

The Stardust spacecraft flew in front of the nucleus, and through the halo of gases and dust at the head of comet Wild 2. During this passage the spacecraft collected dust and volatiles. A volatile is material difficult to capture or hold permanently. The comet samples are expected to be made up of ancient pre-solar interstellar grains and nebular condensates that were incorporated into comets at the birth of the solar system.


Discovery is an ongoing NASA program offering the scientific community opportunities for more frequent, high quality scientific investigations using innovative management approaches. It seeks to keep performance high and expenses low by using new technologies, costing less than $150 (FY92$) million to build and are joint efforts with industry, small businesses and universities.

Stardust is the fourth NASA Discovery mission to be chosen to follow Mars Pathfinder, Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) and the Lunar Prospector.


Explore the Stardust web site for more detailed Mission and Science information. For a discussion of the technologies used in this mission, including aerogel, visit the Stardust Technology page.

Last updated November 4, 2009
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