Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust

Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust

Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
April 12 2011 7:00 AM

Ashes to ashes, stardust to stardust

On March 24, the NASA mission Stardust ran out of fuel and sent its last data to Earth. At 16:33 Pacific time the mission was officially ended.

Launched in 1999, Stardust became a wildly successful mission. It passed by the asteroid Annefrank, sampled the dust from one comet (Wild 2) -- returning those samples to Earth in a special re-entry container while the spacecraft itself flew on -- and looked closely at another (Tempel 1) to see the crater left by the Deep Impact mission.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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It's always sad to see a mission end, but I like to also keep my eyes ahead. Stardust may be done, but Rosetta flies on, heading toward a rendezvous with a comet where it will deploy an actual lander. The Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit around the main-belt asteroid Vesta later this year as well. And, of course, MESSENGER is now orbiting Mercury and returning data.

We learned a lot from Stardust, and we get better with this endeavor of solar system exploration as a result.

And that's the whole point, isn't it?

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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