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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.
- 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.