mission name Stardust was suggested by 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
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. Then, 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 Invesitagtor 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?
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