With a dash of paint here and a blast of color there, a blank canvas
was brought to life by two space-inspired high school students responding to
an art assignment.

Answering the call of their art teachers to paint something that
inspired them, Rebekah Sorensen and Sarah McCready, 10th graders from Meadow
Creek Christian School, Anoka, Minn., created a 5-by-8- foot mural depicting
NASA’s Stardust mission, the first space mission to collect dust from a
comet’s tail.

“I think it’s very exciting that Stardust could inspire something so
beautiful,” said Aimee Whalen, educational and public outreach manager for
the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “When I
saw it I was so impressed!”

The students’ masterpiece, created with acrylic paint, currently
hangs on display at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The mural, divided
into three sections — Stardust’s launch, its encounter with Comet Wild 2
and the spacecraft’s rendezvous with Earth and release of the sample capsule
in 2006 — will be moved to JPL at the end of March, where it will hang for
approximately three months. The laboratory then plans to rotate it yearly to
various museums, said Whalen.

The students’ work of art was also part of an exhibit display for the
JASON Project 2000, one of Stardust’s educational partner programs. It hung
on display for three months at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

“The students and I thought it was such a privilege to have the mural
hang at the University of Minnesota,” said Dee McLellan, math and computer
teacher and JPL Solar System Educator. “But when the Stardust Project Office
at JPL was interested in displaying it, they just thought ‘Wow!'”

Both students received $1,000 from JPL for their work. According to
Whalen, the girls plan to put the money towards their college education.
Sarah is looking into combining the fields of science and art in the future.
“I hope that some of what we do here has helped to inspire her dream,” said

Stardust, launched in February 1999, just received a gravity boost on
Jan. 15, as it made its closest approach to Earth at just over 6,000
kilometers (3,700 miles) above the southeastern coast of Africa. On Jan. 2,
2004, nearly 390 million kilometers (242 million miles) from Earth, it will
encounter its final destination — Comet Wild 2. The mission is managed by
JPL for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division
of the California Institute of Technology. For more information and images
of Stardust go to http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov.