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Stardust Return Podcast

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NASA's comet cargo is home!

This is a Stardust news capsule from JPL -- NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. I'm Jane Platt.

SOUND FROM CONTROL ROOM: All stations, we have touchdown … (cheers)

Some awfully happy team members in the control room at JPL watched the sample return capsule from NASA's Stardust mission glide down for a soft landing at the Utah Test and Training Range. It happened at 2:10 a.m. Mountain time on Sunday, Jan. 15.

Tucked inside the capsule: particles from comet Wild 2 and from interstellar dust -- the stuff that streams between the stars. Since comets are believed to be the frozen leftovers from our solar system's formation, scientists think this precious space cargo will help answer a lot of questions about comets and our solar system.

The spacecraft's 7-year, 2.88 billion mile journey to a comet and back again began winding down at 10:57 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday night, when the craft released its capsule for final descent to Earth. The capsule's two parachutes opened and helped to deposit the capsule gently on the ground in the Utah desert.

Helicopters then swooped down to pick up the capsule. It was carried to a temporary cleanroom nearby at the US Army Dugway Proving Ground. Those eagerly-awaited samples inside will go to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The tiny particles will then be tested in labs around the world, using ultra state-of-the-art equipment.

More information on Stardust is online at http://www.nasa.gov/stardust.

Thanks for joining us for this Stardust news capsule.

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