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The Stardust Mission is one of the Discovery missions (the 4th), and the first robotic mission to return material from beyond the orbit of the Moon. The main goal is to collect dust and volatiles from a close encounter with P/Wild 2, as well as return samples of interstellar dust.

Mission Timeline

  • Feb. 6, 1999 - Launch
  • Jun. 2004 - Encounter with P/Wild 2
  • 2006 - Earth return with samples.

IRTF Mission Support

  • Frequent astrometric measurements will be required of the targets to ensure that the orbits are extremely well known for the close approaches.
  • Knowledge of the nucleus/asteroid sizes and rotation are needed to plan the photographic aspects of the mission, as well as to estimate the gravity field. The IRTF is ideally suited for obtaining nucleus parameters, such as size, albedo and rotation.
  • Excellent models of the dust environment of P/Wild 2 will be needed to allow for proper protection of the spacecraft and to ensure adequate sampling of the dust.

Visits since 10/99. Last Updated on December 15, 2001
Karen. Meech, Institute for Astronomy, UH