Launch: 7 February 1999, 21:04:15 UT (4:04:15 p.m. EST)
Comet Rendezvous: 2 January 2004
Return to Earth: 15 January 2006
The Stardust mission was chosen from a group of
as the fourth Discovery class mission.
(See the NASA Press Release for more details.)
The Stardust mission is designed for a rendezvous with the active comet P/Wild 2,
where it will collect material surrounding the comet. Passive aerogel collectors
will be used to trap the samples of coma and interstellar dust. This material
will provide our first sample of pristine cometary material, and increase our
understanding of interstellar dust. Stardust will then return to Earth with
these samples for scientific study. The mission will also analyze the
cometary coma in situ, examine the composition of the samples in-flight using
a mass spectrometer, and take images of the comet.