Stardust

Stardust
Stardust

Stardust was the first mission to capture dust particles from the coma of a comet and return the samples to the earth for analysis. Launched in 1999 February, the spacecraft rendezvoused with Comet Wild 2 in 2004 January. After flying through the coma, the dust and gas shed from the nucleus of the comet, and capturing dust particles in its aerogel collector plate, the spacecraft returned to earth in 2006 January and a capsule containing the collector plate successfully landed in the Utah desert. Scott Sandford, a member of the Astrophysics Branch at NASA Ames Research Center, was on the team that designed the collector, picked up the capsule, and then he led a team to analyze the organic material present in comet dust.