NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Stardust comet sample return, computer artwork. Stardust sample return capsule (SRC) parachuting down to Earth in 2006. The Stardust spacecraft collected samples of comet dust from Comet Wild-2 on 2 January 2004. Stardust will return to Earth in January 2006, when it will release the SRC that contains the comet dust. The SRC will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere protected by a heat shield, and then its parachute will deploy. Cometary dust is studied because it is a sample of material from the formation of the solar system. Stardust was launched in February 1999.
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