Exploring the Solar System

Exploring Asteroids and Comets

What did the Stardust-NeXT mission achieve?

Stardust-NeXT, the renamed Stardust spacecraft, made its closest approach to Comet Tempel 1 on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2011. It took detailed pictures of the comet to study how it has changed over time, and looked especially carefully at the crash site where Deep Impact had hit the comet years before on July 4, 2005. The images showed that the comet’s nucleus is soft and fragile like a snowball, rather than hard like a rock. Stardust-NeXT continued to gather data for another month; on March 25, 2011, after traveling more than 3.5 billion miles in space, the spacecraft was turned off. The mission was a 100 percent success.


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