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Success for Stardust!
The NASA spacecraft successfully passed through the Wild 2 comet's luminous clouds just after the New Year collecting samples from its particle and gas laden trail.

The spacecraft was able to make such a dangerous pass, because of special shields protecting the solar panels and the main body. Stardust's navigation camera also captured detailed pictures of the comet's pock-marked surface.

The comet's samples are stored in Stardust's return capsule and will return to Earth on January 15, 2006, in Utah. Scientists say the samples could reveal a lot about comets and the history of how planets were formed.

Stardust has traveled about 2 billion miles since its launch on February 7, 1999.

NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory