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Stardust Sample Collection

NSSDC ID: 1999-003D-01
Mission Name: Stardust Sample Return Capsule
Principal Investigator: Dr. Donald E. Brownlee


The Stardust Sample Collection Apparatus consisted of a disc-shaped paddle which could be deployed from the sample return capsule during collection periods and extended out from the spacecraft body on an armature. Sample collection was achieved with the use of aerogel, a low-density (0.02 gm/cc) inert microporous silica-based substance which will allow capture of high-relative-speed particles with minimal physical and chemical alteration. The aerogel is held by modular aluminum cells arranged in a grid pattern and deployed on the paddle. The useful collecting area of each side of the paddle is 1000 square centimeters.

The aerogel is simply exposed to space during sample collection periods and stowed in the sample vault at other times. One side of the aerogel (the A side, 3 cm thick) was used for collection of cometary samples and the other (B, 1 cm thick) side for interstellar dust. The appropriate side was oriented toward the expected particle flux and particles striking the aerogel were slowed down and trapped within. The number of particles is small, the impacts left tracks in the aerogel enabling the particles to be located.

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Planetary Science: Small Bodies
  • Space Physics: Zodiacal Light/Interplanet Dust

Additional Information

Questions or comments about this experiment can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams.



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Donald E. BrownleePrincipal InvestigatorUniversity of

Selected References

Tsou, P., et al., Wild 2 and interstellar sample collection and Earth return, J. Geophys. Res., 108, E10, 8113, doi:10.1029/2003JE002109, 2003.

Brownlee, D., et al., Comet 81P/Wild 2 under a microscope, Science, 314, No. 5806, 1711-1716, Dec. 2006.

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