At less than half the cost of a single round trip in the space shuttle, NASA’s $200-million, seven-year-long Stardust mission to comet Wild 2 was an economical excursion into space. Yet Stardust scored a remarkable number of firsts:
- Stardust returned the first solid samples from space since the 1970s moon missions;
- These were the first samples ever recovered from beyond the moon;
- They were the first samples of a body known to date back to the primitive solar system;
- They also included the first samples of interstellar dust returned directly to Earth.