This composite image shows the three small worlds NASA's Stardust spacecraft encountered during its 12 year mission. Stardust performed a flyby of asteroid Annefrank was visited on Nov. 2, 2002. Comet Wild 2 was visited by the spacecraft on Jan. 2, 2004. The comet Tempel 1 encounter occurred on Feb. 14, 2011.
The flyby of asteroid Annefrank was used as a dress rehearsal of procedures the spacecraft would use for its upcoming encounter with its primary science target, comet Wild 2. Stardust passed within about 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) of the asteroid.
During the comet Wild 2 encounter, Stardust flew within about 230 kilometers (143 miles) of the comet, catching samples of comet particles and scoring detailed pictures of Wild 2's pockmarked surface. The collected particles were stowed in a sample return capsule onboard Stardust. The samples were returned to Earth for in-depth analysis on January 15, 2006, when the spacecraft's sample return capsule made a soft landing at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.
Stardust flew within 181 kilometers (112 miles) of comet Tempel 1 during the spacecraft's final close encounter. During the Tempel 1 flyby, the spacecraft took images of the comet's surface to observe what changes occurred since a NASA spacecraft last visited. (NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft executed an encounter with Tempel 1 in July 2005).
Stardust and Stardust-NExT missions were managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The missions were part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Joe Veverka of Cornell University was the Stardust-NExT principal investigator. Don Brownlee of the University of Washington in Seattle was the Stardust principal investigator. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft and managed day-to-day mission operations.
For more information about Stardust-NExT, please visit: http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov.