NASA’s Stardust spacecraft launched in 1999 on a Discovery class mission to collect dust samples from the coma of the comet Wild-2 and samples of interstellar dust passing through our solar system, and return them to Earth for analysis. When the sample return capsule landed in Utah in 2006, it became the first successful mission to bring back samples from beyond the Earth-Moon system.

Studies of the returned samples showed that the comet, which is thought to have formed in the outer parts of our solar system, contained materials that formed throughout the forming planetary system, including materials that were made very near the Sun. In this lecture, Scott Sandford from NASA Ames Research Center, will discuss this surprising result, which indicates that the protoplanetary nebula from which our planetary system formed must have been an extremely turbulent environment that mixed materials throughout the nebula.

This program will be presented in-person in the Planetarium at the National Air and Space Museum in DC and will be streamed live on YouTube

ASL Interpretation will be provided and live captioning on YouTube. If you require another access service to fully participate or have any questions about accessibility, please contact To ensure the best experience, please try to contact us at your soonest convenience.

Lecture attendees are invited to arrive early at 7 pm to explore the second-floor galleries of the Museum, including the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery (where the Stardust return capsule is on display) and Destination Moon, prior to the lecture.

About the 2024 Exploring Space Lecture Series 

Aside from the meteorites that fall to Earth haphazardly, direct analysis of the materials of the solar system has required explorers—both human and robotic—to collect and return samples from the Moon, comets, asteroids, and one day other planets. The four lectures in this year’s series will spotlight the sample return missions that have helped us better understand the origin and evolution of the Earth and other planets. View all programs in the series.

Spaceflight Solar System Science
Sponsored by
Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies Company
United Launch Alliance
How to attend

National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC

6th St. and Independence Ave SW. Washington, DC 20560

Registration is required for in person attendance.

Register to attend in person at the Museum in DC.


Registration is encouraged for online viewing. Those who register will get a day-of reminder about the livestream.

Register to attend online.