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  NASA's Stardust mission to comet Wild 2

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Author Topic:   NASA's Stardust mission to comet Wild 2
Scott
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Posts: 3293
From: Houston, TX
Registered: May 2001

posted 01-10-2006 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
New York Times: Craft Returns Sunday Bearing Cosmic Dust Older Than the Sun
n a blaze across the night sky, it should be a spectacular homecoming at the end of a very, very long journey.

After covering 2.88 billion miles over seven years, the Stardust spacecraft is nearing home with its minute but precious cargo: samples of what are believed to be the oldest materials in the solar system.

Tucked away in what looks like a giant fly swatter of a collector is dust swooped up from a close encounter with the comet Wild 2 and an accumulation of particles picked up in three circuits of the Sun.

Does anyone who lives in Northern California, Southern Oregon, Northern Nevada, Southern Idaho or Western Utah plan to watch the re-entry? From what I gather from the article, the re-entry will occur around 2am Pacific time. Perhaps someone has a more accurate time.

If you see it let us know what it was like.

Hawkman
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Posts: 398
From: Union, New Jersey
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 01-10-2006 09:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkman   Click Here to Email Hawkman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Anyone interested in helping JPL look for grains of interstellar dust from Stardust can go here...

Philip
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Posts: 4803
From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 01-14-2006 07:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Those at the US west coast might spot the re-entry! Wish I was there.

Scott
Member

Posts: 3293
From: Houston, TX
Registered: May 2001

posted 01-14-2006 09:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just found out what time it's going to happen:

Time of Entry:
1:56:42 am PST 15-JAN-2006

Time of Peak Heating:
1:57:33 am PST

Time of Drogue Deployment:
1:58:55 am PST

Time of Main Deployment:
2:04:46 am PST

It's going to be as bright as -7 magnitude. That's very bright!

To go along with the excellent map Philip linked to, here's an additional one.

Enjoy the view! I'm jealous!

spaceuk
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Posts: 2113
From: Staffs, UK
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-15-2006 04:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like a succesful landing.

Drogue, main parachutes worked successfully. All beacons worked and indications are it has touch downed safely in the Utah desert.

Recovery helicopters now racing to scene of touchdown to retrieve the capsule with its cargo.

I'm pretty pleased since I saw the launch of Stardust at KSC in 1999 as a ticketed-guest of NASA when I did my "The Millenium Space Rock" Exhibition in 1999/2000 at KSC Visitor Centre.

spaceuk
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Posts: 2113
From: Staffs, UK
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-15-2006 04:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A ground station saw the IR signature of Stardust as it began entry.

It'll be interesting see any images taken by them or any optical tracker images of Stardust entry over California and Utah.

spaceuk
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Posts: 2113
From: Staffs, UK
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-15-2006 05:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stardust capsule has now been recovered by the helicopter crew and placed in its recovery cradle. It will now be taken back for delivery to labs - where the aerogel with, hopefully, cometary dust from Wild 2 and interstellar grains - will start to be examined.

The capsule apparently bounced a couple of times on desert surface but is otherwise intact according recovery crews.

spaceuk
Member

Posts: 2113
From: Staffs, UK
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-15-2006 05:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice image of Stardust capsule entry before parachutes deploy.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-15-2006 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA's Stardust sample return mission returned safely to Earth when the capsule carrying cometary and interstellar particles successfully touched down at 2:10 a.m. Pacific time (3:10 a.m. Mountain time) in the desert salt flats of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.

"Ten years of planning and seven years of flight operations were realized early this morning when we successfully picked up our return capsule off of the desert floor in Utah," said Tom Duxbury, Stardust project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The Stardust project has delivered to the international science community material that has been unaltered since the formation of our solar system."

Stardust released its sample return capsule at 9:57 p.m. Pacific time (10:57 p.m. Mountain time) last night. The capsule entered the atmosphere four hours later at 1:57 a.m. Pacific time (2:57 a.m. Mountain time). The drogue and main parachutes deployed at 2:00 and 2:05 a.m. Pacific time, respectively (3:00 and 3:05 a.m. Mountain time).

"I have been waiting for this day since the early 1980s when Deputy Principal Investigator Dr. Peter Tsou of JPL and I designed a mission to collect comet dust," said Dr. Don Brownlee, Stardust principal investigator from the University of Washington, Seattle. "To see the capsule safely back on its home planet is a thrilling accomplishment."

The sample return capsule's science canister and its cargo of comet and interstellar dust particles will be stowed inside a special aluminum carrying case to await transfer to the Johnson Space Center, Houston, where it will be opened. NASA's Stardust mission traveled 2.88 billion miles during its seven-year round-trip odyssey. Scientists believe these precious samples will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the solar system.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Stardust mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and operated the spacecraft.

Scott
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Posts: 3293
From: Houston, TX
Registered: May 2001

posted 01-15-2006 01:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Image of Stardust sample return capsule as found on the desert floor this morning (higher resolution image).

tegwilym
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From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 01-15-2006 11:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw the whole thing live this morning on NASA TV. Quite exciting! I will admit that I was a little nervous when they said the drogue chute was out, but it wasn't slowing much. I kind of held by breath until it hit 10,000 feet and the main chute opened. *whew!*

What a great couple of years this has been for space exploration - Tuesday we leave for Pluto!

spaceuk
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Posts: 2113
From: Staffs, UK
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 01-16-2006 05:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
BBC TV News24 showed the Utah press conference - which was great - since they showed some of the NASA film of the capsule returning and then, later, being delivered to the labs and the backshell starting to be removed.

I doubt if they will sell off this dust to the public - too little and far too precious since it will keeps investigators 'happy' for years if not decades to come.

But, it is interesting to note, that over 100 tons of dust everyday enters the earth atmosphere from space.

John McGauley
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Posts: 144
From: Fort Wayne, Indiana USA
Registered: May 2001

posted 01-27-2006 12:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for John McGauley   Click Here to Email John McGauley     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you couldn't make the trip west to witness Stardust's re-entry, the capsule may be on its way to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC someday soon.

So says Tom Duxbury, Stardust's Project Manager, about his spacecraft's future now that its back on earth. I recently spoke with Duxbury, asking several questions on behalf of collectSPACE.

"The original plan [for the basic sample return capsule] was that after we study the effects of space and the effects of the Earth return, was to have that go to the Air and Space Museum," said Duxbury.

That testing will be done at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas over the next 6 to 12 months. Core samples may also be taken and sent to Ames Research Center in California, where the heat shield was designed. They are now interested in comparing the predicted results to the actual returns.

There are also engineers and scientists from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Lockheed Martin who want to study the capsule and capitlize on the experience and data it may yield. "We do hope to use this model for other missions in the future," said Duxbury, including sample return missions from Mars.

The capsule will not however, be segmented for distribution to researchers; it will remain intact.

In addition to displaying the Stardust capsule at the National Air and Space Museum, Duxbury's team would like to take the microchip it contains, holding millions of names and signatures, and place it into a computer that could be used by the public to view its contents.

Duxbury is also leading one of the efforts to reuse the main Stardust spacecraft. His desire is to send it back to Comet Tempel 1, which was visited by Deep Impact on July 4, 2005.

"When they flew by, they did not get to see the last part of crater formation."

Duxbury believes that it would be scientifically valuable to return several years after Deep Impact to see the final results of the cratering process and to examine the comet with a different suite of instruments. Stardust was designed to be a comet explorer and its intruments are designed specifically for that purpose.

"Its heritage is still potentially out there in the future," said Duxbury.

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