Video Transcript: First impressions of Stardust-NExT flyby of comet Tempel 1
Was this mission 100% successful in terms of the science? I would have to say no, it was 1,000% successful.
We achieved all of our science objectives. We do in fact have a comparison of the Deep impact area it in fact does show an impact crater. It's about 150 meters across and has a small central mound in the center. It looks as if from the impact the stuff went up and came back down. You can barely see this, but there's a little lit area on that side and a dark area on the other and that's the central mound where we think the material came down.
Comets unlike any other body in the solar system are unique because when they are in the inner part of the solar system where the Earth is there literally coming apart and sending tons and tons of gas and rocks and dust out in space. This spacecraft Stardust went through this cloud of dust and rocks coming off the comet. We have instruments on the front of the spacecraft called dust flux monitor instrument and they have sensored to detect these impacts. A good analogy of thinking of like a B17 in WWII flying through flax.
I have a message for any school kids out there who might be wondering how NASA can send a spacecraft billions of miles through the solar system and somehow wind up flying so close to a tiny comet only a few kilometers in diameter. It's done with math.