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past feature

Comet Fly-By

NASA's Stardust probe flew to within 3300 kms of comet Annefrank on November 2nd with a sophisticated mass spectrometer onboard.

The spacecraft has passed the asteroid, named after Jewish teenager Anne Frank whose famous diaries recorded Germany's occupation in wartime Amsterdam, in deep space in a final test of the instruments that will analyze dust from a comet's tail in 2004. The fly-by successfully tested the spacecraft's comet-tracking system, its communications links and onboard mass spectrometer.

Stardust will perform its main task in January 2004 when it will fly to within 100 kms of another comet known as Wild 2. It will attempt to capture dust from this comet's tail and should then return to Earth with the first ever comet samples in 2006. The samples should provide information on how our solar system evolved and the planets formed. The probe should also capture images of a comet.

During the test, the spacecraft's mass spectrometer was activated. Thcomet uses an aerogel to capture the dust particles that will be analyzed by the mass spectrometer.

Full details appear at the
NASA web site.


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