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Photos: Stardust capsule returns with comet dust

After a 2.9 billion mile journey, NASA's Stardust probe returned to Earth--carrying secrets of the solar system.
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By Bill Detwiler on
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1 of 5 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

landing

NASA's Stardust capsule successfully landed on Jan. 15 at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range. The 100-pound capsule was launched in 1999 and traveled 2.9 billion miles to capture particles from comet Wild 2 and return to Earth.

See previous coverage of the Stardust mission.

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2 of 5 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

return to earth

The Stardust capsule's re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere created a light show captured by NASA's DC-8 Airborn Laboratory. It was the fastest re-entry of a manmade object, returning at a speed of 28,860 miles per hour after being ejected from the main spacecraft as it flew past Earth.

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capsule

After cutting away the parachute, NASA workers carried the capsule to a recovery helicopter.

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transport

The capsule was packed inside a protective covering and then transported to a laboratory for analysis.

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cleanroom

The Stardust capsule was taken to a temporary "clean room" at the Michael Army Air Field in Utah where scientists began examining the cannister and its contents--hopefully uncovering secrets of the solar system.

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