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Stardust Team Reports Discovery of First Potential Interstellar Space Particles

Seven rare, microscopic interstellar dust particles that date to the beginnings of the solar system are among the samples collected by scientists who have been studying the payload from NASA's Stardust spacecraft since its return to Earth in 2006. If confirmed, these particles would be the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust.
A team of scientists has been combing through the spacecraft's aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors since Stardust returned in 2006.The seven particles probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion millions of years ago and altered by exposure to the extreme space environment.

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The Stardust spacecraft passed Comet Tempel 1 in 2011.

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The Mission of the Spacecraft Stardust

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 The Stardust spaceprobe was launched in 1999

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On January 2, 2004, at 19:21:28 UTC, Stardust encountered Comet Wild 2 on the sunward side with a relative velocity of 6.1 km/s at a distance of 237 km. The original encounter distance was planned to be 150 km, but this was changed after a safety review board increased the closest approach distance to minimize the potential for catastrophic dust collisions.
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NASA's Venerable Comet Hunter Wraps Up Mission

At 33 minutes after 4 p.m. PDT today, NASA's Stardust spacecraft finished its last transmission to Earth. The transmission came on the heels of the venerable spacecraft's final rocket burn, which was designed to provide insight into how much fuel remained aboard after its encounter with comet Tempel 1 in February.
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On Thursday, March 24, at about 4 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. EDT), NASA's Stardust spacecraft will perform a burn with its main engines.
At first glance, the burn is something of an insignificant event. After all, the venerable spacecraft has executed 40 major flight path manoeuvres since its 1999 launch, and between these main engines and the reaction control system, its rocket motors have collectively fired more than 2 million times. But the March 24 burn will be different than all others. This burn will effectively end the life of NASA's most travelled comet hunter.

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Stardust-NExT
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Mission Status 2011
March 16, 2011
The spacecraft continues its post-encounter cruise. All subsystems continue to operate as expected. The team is preparing for the decommissioning manoeuvre, and the decommissioning plan has been prepared and reviewed. The primary date for the decommissioning activity is March 24, with a back-up opportunity on April 7. The Decommissioning Review has been scheduled for March 18 at JPL.
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NASA Briefs Media on Comet Flyby



News conference held Feb. 15 following the flyby of comet Tempel 1 by the Stardust-NExT spacecraft on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. The spacecraft's closest approach was a distance of 112 miles. Participants are: Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, Washington; Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator, Cornell University; Tim Larson, Stardust-NExT project manager, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Don Brownlee, Stardust-NExT co-investigator, University of Washington, Seattle; and Pete Schultz, Stardust-NExT co-investigator, Brown University.

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Comet Hunter's First Images on the Ground

Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have begun receiving the first of 72 anticipated images of comet Tempel 1 taken by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.
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