Images: Streaking home with piece of comet's tail

Images: Streaking home with piece of comet's tail

Summary: NASA's Stardust space capsule, loaded with captured comet dust, is expected to make a grand return to Earth.

TOPICS: Nasa / Space

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  • Stardust

    Stardust, NASA's comet-chasing space probe, is expected to make a showy return to Earth to complete its six-year, 2.88-billion mile journey. The craft was launched in 1999 and collected particles from the tail of comet Wild 2 in January 2004, when it approached within 147 miles of its body. When Stardust's comet dust-filled capsule returns to Earth, at about 3 a.m. MST Jan. 15, 2006, it will be visible as a point of light to the naked eye as it streaks across Nevada and Utah to its deserted landing site at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.

  • Wild 2

    Stardust took this photo as it approched within 147 miles of the comet Wild 2 (pronounced "vilt two") on Jan. 2, 2004. The comet is named after its discoverer, Paul Wild.

  • dust collector

    When it passed through the tail of Wild 2, Stardust's collector, filled with aerogel, acted like a catcher's mitt as it grabbed samples. At the time of Stardust's launch, on Feb. 7, 1999, NASA claimed that aerogel was the lightest man-made material on Earth.

Topic: Nasa / Space

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