Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stardust mission a success

The NASA Stardust-mission I talked about a couple of posts back seems to be a success. The capsule returned safely home, shattering the previous records of re-entry speed by manmade objects, when it hurtled towards the Utah plains at 13km/second. The parachute systems worked as planned, slowing the capsule down before impact, saving it from crashing down and mixing the invaluable interstellar dust and comet-tail material with terrestrial dirt.

That's exactly what happened to Genesis, NASA's previous attempt to collect particles from space and return them back to earth. Luckily not all was lost when Genesis dug a crater upon its landing, after parachutes and a daring stunt involving helicopters and oversized baseball mits had failed.

The mission scientists estimate that Stardust collected thousands, possibly more than a million particles, most of them from the comet Wild 2 (in the picture, © NASA). I'm looking forward to the start of Stardust@Home...

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