Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stardust Spacecraft Catching Dust In The Wind

Date:
April 24, 2000
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Like an excited kid hoping to snag a fly ball at a professional baseball game, NASA's Stardust spacecraft has extended its high-tech "catcher's mitt" to collect a valuable space souvenir -- a batch of interstellar dust particles.

Like an excited kid hoping to snag a fly ball at a professional baseball game, NASA's Stardust spacecraft has extended its high-tech "catcher's mitt" to collect a valuable space souvenir -- a batch of interstellar dust particles.

The dust is contained in a stream of particles that flows through our solar system, and scientists are anxious to study it so they can learn more about the formation of Earth, other planets and life.

"We can see this material with the naked eye as a black zone running along the center of the Milky Way," said Dr. Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington in Seattle, principal investigator for Stardust. "These particles contain the heavy chemical elements that originated in the stars. Since every atom in our bodies came from the inside of stars, by studying these interstellar dust particles we can learn about our cosmic roots."

Stardust is equipped with a special collector containing aerogel, a unique substance that can trap the particles and store the precious cargo safely until it's returned to Earth. The aerogel collector has two sides, one designed to gather the interstellar dust and one for comet dust collection, which will take place later in the mission. Engineers orient the spacecraft to control which side of the collector is exposed to a dust stream.

Right now, Stardust is oriented so that the interstellar dust particles are hitting the backside of the collector. This collection began on February 22, when the spacecraft's sample return capsule opened and the aerogel collector was moved out of the capsule. It will remain in this configuration until May 1, when the collector will return to its stowed position for safe storage until mid-2002, when another period of interstellar dust collection is scheduled.

"The project's name, 'Stardust,' reflects the importance of this event," said Stardust Project Manager Dr. Kenneth Atkins of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "It's the first time anyone has attempted to catch anything like this and bring it home. After all the design, building, testing, and now the flying of this spacecraft over the past four years, the moment of truth for the collector is here. These tiny particles zip by at 20 to 25 kilometers per second (about 45,000 to 56,000 miles per hour) relative to the spacecraft. The aerogel must slow them to a stop in fractions of an inch."

In late December 2003, the collector will be deployed again in preparation for the gathering of comet dust samples when Stardust flies by Comet Wild-2 on January 2, 2004. Once the samples of both interstellar dust and comet dust are tucked safely inside the aerogel collector, it will be retracted into the sample return capsule. Stardust will begin the return trip to Earth and make a soft landing at the U.S. Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range in 2006. The sample canister will be taken to the planetary material curatorial facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. The samples will be carefully extracted and then examined by scientists.

"I'm thrilled at the thought of being able to look at and study these particles firsthand," Brownlee said.

More information on the Stardust mission is available at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/ .

Stardust was launched on February 7, 1999. The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Co, built and operates the spacecraft. Science instruments were provided by JPL, the University of Chicago and the Max Planck Institute, Garching, Germany. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Stardust Spacecraft Catching Dust In The Wind." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 April 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000424092256.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2000, April 24). Stardust Spacecraft Catching Dust In The Wind. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000424092256.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Stardust Spacecraft Catching Dust In The Wind." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000424092256.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins