Stardust Spacecraft to Return January 15, 2006
Monday, January 16 2006 @ 07:30 am EST
Contributed by: bobmoody
UPDATE: January 15, 2006......SUCCESS!! STARDUST HAS RETURNED SAFELY AND EXACTLY AS PLANNED IN THE PREDAWN HOURS OF SUNDAY MORNING.
UPDATE: Jan 1, 2006 Amateurs are asked to participate in watching, and recording, the re-entry of the Stardust return canister as it lights up the Pacific NorthWest. This following info comes from Night Sky Network.Stardust Reentry Observing Opportunity and Call for Amateur Astronomer Participation
Stardust is the first U.S. space mission dedicated solely to the exploration of a comet, and the first robotic mission designed to return extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the Moon. Additionally, the Stardust spacecraft will bring back samples of interstellar dust, including recently discovered dust streaming into our Solar System from the direction of Sagittarius. Stardust is on its way back home, due to arrive as a visible "meteor" on January 15 starting at around 2 am PDT (3 am MDT). The "meteor" will be visible from several Western states, and especially good in Nevada and Utah. The capsule will actually make landfall in Utah, southwest of Salt Lake. The peak optical brightness is anticipated at minus 7.8. It will be hard to miss if you're in the right place. Amateur astronomers are invited to participate in the mission! If you are interested in participating, the team is looking for video, still and even visual observation reports. If you are interested there is an observation form and list of observers here:
To learn more about participating in this event, go to the press release at: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/science/feature002.html
Amateur astronomers are invited to participate in the mission! If you are interested in participating, the team is looking for video, still and even visual observation reports. If you are interested there is an observation form and list of observers here:http://reentry.arc.nasa.gov/registrationobserver.html
|The Stardust spacecraft is almost home now after a nearly 3 billion mile journey. Onboard are pristine samples of interstellar dust grains, and the first ever samples of particles returned from a comet.|
|Periodic Comet 81/P Wild 2|
But it is the cometary material that is of prime interest to NASA scientists, and especially to Dr. Donald Brownlee, principal investigator of the Stardust mission. Brownlee regularly studies the micrometeorites that are scooped up by ultra high-flying U-2 aircraft. These are part of the normal "daily delivery" of meteoritic material that enters the earth's atmosphere and gently rains down across the entire surface of the Earth. Believe it or not, we have all eaten meteoritic materials in the crops which are grown in the farm lands around the world. This material is in cabbage and lettuce and all other crops with large leaves, where the material falls onto the leaves and is then washed down by raindrops into the space between the leaves which is where it can be found when we eat the crop. Umm, tasty!
Click read more for the rest of this story.
|This composite image is a short-exposure of the visible surface of comet Wild 2, superimposed over a longer exposure of the comet's bright halo of gaseous materials behind, which are being expelled away from its surface to create the familiar "head and tail" that we identify as a comet.|
|A comet comes to Earth. The return module of the Stardust spacecraft awaits pick-up by NASA scientists after landing (hopefully) softly in the Utah desert at the Dugway Proving Grounds.|
Stardust mission scientists have used the last year to check out every possible system involved with the proper deployment of the parachute system and are quite confident that the accident that befell the Genesis spacecraft will NOT repeat itself.
Exactly one year ago this coming January 15, NASA scored a smash hit with its successful landing of the Huygens lander on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. That success eclipsed the failure of the Genesis mission accident, but there aren't any similar spectacular missions to rescue the Stardust spacecraft should there be an accident upon its return to Earth. I know I'll be up that evening, waiting for the word that the return module has made it home without incident, and that it will soon give mankind our first glimpse into what the material from a comet looks like. When this information is combined with the findings from last July's Deep Impact mission at Comet Temple-1, we'll have a much clearer idea of what was going on in the solar nebula from which our Sun and its retinue of planets formed some 4.6 billion years ago.
Then, in 2007 we'll be able to add to that information database with the sample return mission by the Japanese Space Exploration Agency spacecraft Huyabusa to asteroid Itokawa. That asteroidal material will yeild information about the makeup of asteroids which are the less distant, more solid cousins of comets. We will all look forward to what all this new information will tell us by 2010, and will someday help toward planning for the first manned-mission to an asteroid.