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NASA Stardust spacecraft flies by comet Tempel 1

February 14, 2011 - SPACE

NASA's Stardust-NExT mission and the comet Tempel 1 have a date in Space on Valentine's Day. It will be a close encounter rather than a touching rendezvous, and also the second meeting between the comet and a spacecraft: on 4 Jul 2005, Deep Impact successfully released an impactor into Tempel 1 while observing it during a flyby. Stardust-NExT, launched 4.5 years ago, expands the 2005 investigation. The data is expected to shed light on the formation of the Solar System.Stardust is already famous. Launched on 7 Feb 1999, it became the first spacecraft to collect samples from a comet (comet Wild 2) and return them to Earth for study. NASA is re-using the already-proven flight system with the Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel) mission.

NASA's Stardust-NExT mission and the comet Tempel 1 have a date in Space on Valentine's Day. It will be a close encounter rather than a touching rendezvous, and also the second meeting between the comet and a spacecraft: on 4 Jul 2005, Deep Impact successfully released an impactor into Tempel 1 while observing it during a flyby. Stardust-NExT, launched 4.5 years ago, expands the 2005 investigation. The data is expected to shed light on the formation of the Solar System. Stardust is already famous. Launched on 7 Feb 1999, it became the first spacecraft to collect samples from a comet (comet Wild 2) and return them to Earth for study. NASA is re-using the already-proven flight system with the Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel) mission. Along with the high-resolution images of the comet's surface, Stardust-NExT will also measure the composition, size distribution and flux of dust emitted into the coma, and provide important new information on how Jupiter family comets evolve and how they formed 4.6 billion years ago. Stardust-NExT will be NASA's second comet flyby within four months. The EPOXI mission -- which successfully flew past comet Hartley 2 on Nov 4 -- provided the first images clear enough for scientists to link jets of dust and gas with specific surface features. Data from the fly-by is expected to expand knowledge about the nature of comets and even planets. (WRITTEN Dec 2010)

Stardust-NExT

EPOXI

NASA Discovery missions

Date written/update: 2011-02-14