On Jan. 15, 2006, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft returned to Earth to drop off a capsule that contained the first samples of a comet and interstellar dust. Two weeks earlier, Stardust visited the comet Wild 2 and collected some dust from its coma.
After spending seven years in space, the 100-lb. capsule touched down in Utah.
Scientists analyzed the dust grains and discovered some organic compounds, like nitrogen and hydrocarbons.
Scientist also found material that was older than the sun. Just as they suspected, the particles collected by the Stardust mission turned out to be leftovers of the ancient building blocks of our solar system.
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Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke anjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.