NASA’s Stardust probe was launched 12 years ago to fly by objects in the wilderness of space back in 1999. During its years of operation, it flew by asteroid 5535 Annefrank, Wild 2 and most recently comet Tempel 1 earlier this year. It also flew through the tail of comet Wild 2 capturing particles and then sending it back to earth. After years in service, NASA has decided to pull the plug on the operation. The end will come when NASA sends a remote order to throttle up all of its thrusters in an attempt to empty its tanks and measure how quickly fuel is depleted. This information will be useful for future missions.
NASA pulls the cord on the 12yr long project. Credit: NASA/JPL
In order to do this, protection mechanisms designed to limit fuel consumption will be switched off. The probe has travelled close to 9.1 billion kilometers during this 12 year old ride into space. All communications to and from the craft will be disabled as well.