Stardust-NExT Spaceflight

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This Demonstration shows an animation of the flight of the Stardust-NExT spacecraft's mission to two comets (81P/Wild 2 and 9P/Tempel 1). The spacecraft used a technique called gravitational assist twice with the Earth, on January 15, 2001 and on January 14, 2009. It also studied the asteroid 5535 Annefrank (closest approach occured on November 02, 2002).


NExT stands for New Exploration of comet Tempel 1.

The orbits of planets have the following colors: Mercury: orange; Venus: brown; Earth: blue; Mars: red; Jupiter: brown. The orbit of the comet Wild 2 is purple, the orbit of the comet Tempel 1 is white (or black, depending on the background color), and the orbit of the asteroid Annefrank is pink.


Contributed by: Tomas Franc (August 2013)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



The time step is one day, positions are at midnight, and the speed is measured relative to the Sun. The origin is at the Sun with the positive axis pointing toward the vernal equinox.

Nothing here is modeled; all positions of the spacecraft and planets were obtained from NASA JPL. We thank NASA JPL for providing the data.

Information about the mission can be found on NASA'sStardust-NExTwebsite.

More information about the gravitational assist can be found in [1]. A manual on how to create such an animation can be found in [2]. For more information, see the author's website.


[1] T. Franc, "The Gravitational Assist," in Week of Doctoral Students 2011—Proceedings of Contributed Papers: Part III—Physics (WDS 2011), Prague (J. Safrankova and J. Pavlu, eds.), Prague: MatfyzPress Publishing House, 2011 pp. 55–60. _Franc.pdf.

[2] T. Franc, "Gravitational Assisted Trajectories—Making Your Own Pictures and Trajectory Study," in Proceedings GIREP-EPEC Conference 2011, Physics Alive, Jyväskylä, Finland (A. Lindell, A. Kähkönen, and J. Viiri, eds.), Jyväskylä, Finland: University of Jyväskylä, 2011 pp. 202–207.

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