The Stardust spacecraft was launched on February 7, 1999, from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida, aboard a Delta II rocket. The primary goal of Stardust is to collect dust and carbon-based samples during its closest encounter with Comet Wild 2 - pronounced "Vilt 2" after the name of its Swiss discoverer - is a rendezvous scheduled to take place in January 2004, after nearly four years of space travel.
Additionally, the Stardust spacecraft will bring back samples of interstellar dust, including recently discovered dust streaming into our Solar System from the direction of Sagittarius. These materials are believed to consist of ancient pre-solar interstellar grains and nebular that include remnants from the formation of the Solar System. Analysis of such fascinating celestial specks is expected to yield important insights into the evolution of the Sun its planets and possibly even the origin of life itself.
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