Stardust Memories

The Stardust probe, which was launched in 1999 to study the asteroid 5535 Annefrank and Comet Wild 2, was shut down by NASA on March 24. In addition to its primary mission, which ended when a capsule of dust from Comet Wild were returned to Earth, Stardust had a flyby of Comet Tempel 1 earlier this year to follow-up on the mission of the 2005 Deep Impact probe. Before shutting down, Stardust notified NASA of its remaining fuel to help gauge consumption of future missions and then burned off 146 seconds worth of fuel.

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Comet Tempel Flyby

The Stardust-NExT probe flew to within 112 miles of Comet Tempel I on February 14, taking a series of photos of the comet. Comet Tempel had previously been visited by a NASA spacecraft in 2005, when Deep Impact collided with the comet. This is the first time a comet has been revisited after a complete orbit. Photos have shown that erosion has changed the face of the comet, but the impact crater left by Deep Impact appears to have partially healed itself.

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