Stardust is also the name of a space probe
. Here's the lowdown
Launch Date: February 7, 1999
Mission Summary: Stardust is the first sample return mission operating from beyond the Earth-Moon system. Stardust collects interstellar dust, then will encounter Comet P/Wild 2 in 2004 to collect comet dust and possibly take images of the nucleus. It will then return to Earth in 2006 to drop off the sample return capsule.
Samples will be collected with aerogel, which is a type of foamed glass which is almost lighter than air and is barely visible. Particles will burrow into the aerogel, making conical pits which will make them easy to locate in the aerogel.
From these collections, scientists hope to learn about the material which made up the early solar system. Most comets were formed in the very early days of the solar system and remain mostly unchanged because they spend much of their time in the Kuiper Belt, a relative deep-freeze compared to space inside the solar system.
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