Oct
05
2005

Ziggy Stardust or comet stardust?

NASA recently rammed into a comet to see what it's made of. Did you know that in a seperate mission in January of 2004 the Stardust spacecraft flew through the coma of the comet 81P/Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt 2", after the discoverer) and collected dust and carbon based samples? The spacecraft is now on it's way back to Earth. This is the first robotic mission aimed at gathering and returning material from beyond our moon.


Wild2: Comet Wild 2. Image courtesy NASA.

Launched in February of 1999, Stardust will also bring back samples of interstellar dust, including dust that is streaming into our solar system from outside the solar system. The study of this dust, as well as the samples from 81P/Wild 2 will hopefully reveal insights into the evolution of our sun and the planets in our solar system. Comets contain many of the organic materials thought to be essential for the origin of life, so the study of this comet may help us learn more about the origin of life as well.

On January 15, 2006 around 2:45am, the samples collected will return to Earth via parachute in Utah.

NASA has some great animations and movies of the mission at the Stardust Theater site.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

check your spelling: separate!

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 11:21am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

Huh - you're right. I did check my spelling though, and Word didn't catch this one. I tried writing it again and sometimes Word autocorrects it sometimes not, and when it does not autocorrect it does not indicate it is misspelled. I wonder if it is one of those words with two proper spellings. I know who to ask - Gene?

posted on Tue, 11/22/2005 - 9:41am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

How did *I* get to be "word man"?

No, there is only one spelling for "separate," though "seperate" is a common misspelling. (The "e" spelling pops up 16 million times in a Yahoo search, as opposed to 269 million for the correct "a" spelling.) But you're in good company -- one of those misspellings was in Time magazine!

I don't know what to tell you about Word. It always autocorrects in my version. I cut-and-pasted the original text, and Word found the error. So I have no idea what's going on there.

Of course, you may be thinking of "supperate" which, in addition to being a homonym for an unfortunately named motel chain, is a medical term meaning "to form or discharge pus." Somehow I doubt that's what you meant, though. ;-)

posted on Tue, 11/22/2005 - 9:54am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

The Stardust spacecraft lands back on Earth this Sunday. Visit the NASA/Stardust website for more information!

posted on Fri, 01/13/2006 - 9:58am
bryan kennedy's picture

Cool. It's pretty amazing how this spacecraft can travel out into space, collect samples and then return safely to Earth. You can listen to the NASA Podcast about Stardust.

posted on Fri, 01/13/2006 - 10:58am
zero's picture
zero says:

i love space ships

posted on Fri, 01/13/2006 - 11:00am
bryan kennedy's picture

The sample container from stardust landed successfully inside the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range at 4:10am (CST) this morning. Again, you can check out NASA's website for the latest images of the stardust capsule.

posted on Sun, 01/15/2006 - 12:32pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

After a seven year journey, the Stardust sample return capsule returned safely to Earth. It touched down Jan. 15 at 4:10 a.m. Central time in the desert salt flats of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.

Stardust CapsuleImage courtesy NASA.

YOU can help analyze the payload of the capsule. Volunteers for a project to help identify interstellar dust particles will be chosen after passing a test where they must identify tracks in sample images. If at least two of the volunteers find a track in one of the real images, the image will be sent to 100 more volunteers. If 20 or more of this second group find a track as well, the image will then be sent to trained college students for evaluation. If confirmed as interstellar dust, the grain will be removed for study.

Check out the podcast for this story from NASA.

posted on Mon, 01/16/2006 - 10:04am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

The Stardust spacecraft was placed into hibernation mode on January 29, 2006. All but a few essential systems are now shut down. Using this long term hibernation state allows it to be reused at a later date.
While hibernating, Stardust will continue in it's orbit that travels from a little closer to the Sun than that of the Earth to well beyond the orbit of Mars. The next time it will complete a flyby of Earth will be January 14, 2009.

posted on Thu, 02/02/2006 - 1:19pm

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