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Links to broadcast quality audio files and transcripts -- Dr. Scott Sandford, astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., was interviewed about the Stardust comet sample-return mission – humanity’s first opportunity to study the original material from which our solar system was built. Launched in 1999, the mission is flying to a rendezvous with the Wild-2 (pronounced VILD-TWO) comet in 2004 and is scheduled to return samples of cometary dust to Earth in 2006. The stardust mission is slated to be the first to return a sample from outside the Earth’s moon system. More information about the mission is on the Internet at:

This interview was posted on the web April 28, 2003. Sandford provided these comments prior to a talk he gave about the mission at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, Calif. on April 23.

Question 2. When did the spacecraft launch, and what does it look like?

The audio recording is 59 seconds

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Full Transcript (below)

2. When did the spacecraft launch, and what does it look like?(59 SECONDS)

Dr. Scott Sandford: "It launched in February of 1999, and since then we’ve been cruising through interplanetary space, waiting for the comet encounter which happens in January of 2004. The sample will get back to us in January of 2006. The spacecraft is a bit of an ungainly thing like most spacecraft are. The main bus or main spacecraft is a box, basically, with a lot of components in it. And it has two large, sort of wings that stick out that are the solar panels for collecting solar power which we use to run everything. And then the front side of the spacecraft has some funny equipment on it that’s used as sort of a meteorite bumper. As we pass through the comet’s coma, we need to make sure nothing big hits us and wrecks the spacecraft. So, we have a kind of a bumper on the front. And then on the back is the sample return capsule, the part that actually comes back to the Earth’s surface, and it’s shaped a little like the old Apollo spacecraft from the Moon shot days."

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