Skip to Main Content
STARDUST, the 4th NASA discovery mission, returned the world's first coma sample from a comet with known history. The returned samples gave the world the first opportunity to perform detailed laboratory studies of comet Wild 2 and a time capsule of the formational times of our solar system. The completion of a comet coma flyby sample return mission required heroic endeavors from many participants, extensive advocacy by officials and reviewers, considerable doses of serendipitous miracles and, invariably, disappointments. This chronicle recounts some of the technology breakthroughs and significant engineering and strategic innovations that made STARDUST possible. For those who dream of future space exploration, this account may provide inspiration for even more incredible discoveries to come. A flight project distinguished by the excellence of its technical concept is only a necessary condition; completing such a mission successfully depends on sufficiency factors that are often slighted-programmatic, interpersonal and cosmic happenstances.