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       Sunday, January 15, 2006

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Stardust Probe Lands Safely, Brings Comet Particles

Wrapping up a 7-year mission, the Lockheed-built Stardust landed safely in the Utah desert Sunday morning, bringing samples of the Wild 2 comet for NASA scientists to investigate.

The Stardust mission was the first since 1972 to bring space material back to Earth for study, and the first time ever that the material came from a comet.

"We are absolutely delighted by the successful recovery of the Stardust samples," said Jim Crocker, vice president, Civil Space, at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. "Years of planning, preparation and teamwork paid off handsomely this morning. We're very proud to have played a role in another of NASA's exciting voyages of exploration and look forward to learning what Stardust will tell us about the origins of our solar system."

The craft was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1999, and traversed almost 3 billion miles during its mission. Reaching record speeds on its way home, Stardust's probe took only 13 minutes to get through the Earth's atmosphere.

After the Genesis crash of 2004, NASA had concerns about Stardust's ability to return safely. However, all concerns were proved unfounded when the 100-pound craft touched down early Sunday morning.

NASA says the science of the mission has really only just begun, as scientists work to classify and study the material from Stardust. They hope to answer questions about the universe's origin.

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posted by Kit Jarrell at 12:23 PM  


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