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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Nov > Nov 7

Solar System Material Collection

From: Stig Agermose <stig.agermose.nul>
Date: Thu, 07 Nov 2002 07:05:49 +0100
Archived: Thu, 07 Nov 2002 12:49:25 -0400
Subject: Solar System Material Collection

Source: Casa Grande Dispatch - Arizona,




Spaceship looking for secrets of universe

By ALAN LEVINE, Casa Grande Dispatch
November 02, 2002


Gathering dust to seek similarities to Earth


Just as this edition of the Dispatch was being printed,
somewhere out in deep space, just beyond the orbit of Mars, a
spaceship had finished gathering in and storing dust particles
from Asteroid 5535.

The 2.5-mile-wide chunk of rock is more affectionately referred
to as asteroid Annefrank, discovered in 1942 by prolific German
asteroid hunter Karl Reinmuth and later named in honor of the
Jewish teenager, whose diary was published by her father in

This is the first collecting of extraterrestrial material since
the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972, and it is the first ever to
take place beyond the Earth's moon, but the flyby of Annefrank
is merely a kind of dress rehearsal for the spacecraft.

The seven-year mission, dubbed Stardust, was first launched from
Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Feb. 7, 1999 and is a part of NASA's
Discovery Program of low-cost, highly focused science missions
being managed by the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), a division of
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Stardust's primary mission is to collect particles from comet
Wild-2 (pronounced Vilt), and bring the samples back to Earth in
January of 2006 to help answer fundamental questions about the
origins of the solar system.

The mission's principal investigator is Donald Brownlee,
professor of astronomy at the University of Washington.
"Stardust will come within 100 miles of the core of the comet,
and it will gather a variety of scientific readings and transmit
close- up pictures before returning to Earth with its treasure,
bits of comet dust," he said.

The Stardust spacecraft will take advantage of flying near
Annefrank asteroid to test the many procedures the spacecraft
will use when it encounters Wild-2, Jan. 2, 2004.

"This is an engineering test," said Thomas Duxbury, project
manager for Stardust at JPL. "We have no science goals or
science expectations at Annefrank. It's an opportunity to try
key procedures for the first time before we get to comet Wild-2,
so that we may identify problems that we can address before we
reach our primary target."

Although there are differences in how the spacecraft will
function during the Annefrank flyby and the comet encounter, the
asteroid does present an opportunity to test Stardust's safety
features should it run into trouble. If a serious problem
occurs, the spaceship will go into "safe mode," which entails
turning the spacecraft's solar collectors toward the sun to
protect itself.

"When we have the comet encounter," Brownlee said, "we want as
few first-time events as possible. This fortunate opportunity at
the asteroid increases our probability of success when the
Stardust craft arrives at the comet."

There won't be much in the way of a photo-op for the spacecraft
as it passes Annefrank, because the angle of the encounter
relative to the sun will give the spaceship a view in which only
a thin crescent of the asteroid will be sunlit during the
approach, which will provide an additional challenge for the
optical- navigation system to recognize it as a guiding light.

Aerogel (a glass foam) dust collectors that will gather comet
dust from Wild-2 will stay open for the asteroid flyby. The Max
Planck Institute dust analyzer and the University of Chicago
dust flux monitor also will be operating. However, little to no
dust from the asteroid is anticipated, since the spacecraft will
only get within 1,900 miles of Annefrank.

When the Stardust spacecraft finally encounters Wild-2, it will
fly as close as 75 miles from the comet's main body, close
enough to trap small particles from the coma, the gas-and-dust
envelope surrounding the comet's nucleus. The craft will be
traveling at about 13,400 mph. The main camera, built for NASA's
Voyager program, will transmit the closest-ever comet pictures
back to Earth.

Stardust will collect interstellar particles that more recently
came to our solar system from outside its boundaries. Scientists
believe that they contain heavy chemical elements that
originated in the stars. Since every atom in our bodies came
from inside of the stars, by thoroughly studying this
interstellar dust, scientists hope to learn more about our
cosmic roots.

The dust flux monitor on the Stardust ship will be used to
monitor interstellar dust particle encounters. In addition, the
Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyzer will intercept and
perform real-time compositional analysis on this dust. The
findings of both instruments will be sent back to Earth for
further analysis.

The Stardust spacecraft will return in January of 2006 and
deliver its precious cargo by parachuting the samples to Earth
to a selected location in the Utah desert, using a clamshell-
 like, low-cost reentry capsule. The canister will then be
transported to the planetary materials curatorial facility at
Johnson Space Center for further analysis.

Just prior to entering the Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft
will jettison the capsule and then perform a divert maneuver to
avoid entering the atmosphere. The capsule is to free-fall for a
couple of miles before the drogue parachute deploys, with the
main chute deploying several seconds later when the capsule has
reached the 10,000-foot level.

Having been diverted so as not to enter the Earth's atmosphere,
the spacecraft will drift away and continue to orbit the sun.

It is interesting to note that in 1980 renowned scientist Carl
Sagan aired "Cosmos," a 13-hour, Emmy Award-winning TV series on
PBS in which he held 500 million people in 60 countries
spellbound by taking them on a voyage to the stars and
explaining the wonders of the universe. Sagan frequently
reminded his viewing audience that "nearly all of the atoms in
your body were made inside the stars," and he delighted in
referring to us as "star stuff." Within the next 14 to 15
months, Stardust will be gathering the materials that will more
than likely support Sagan's theory.


Copyright Casa Grande Valley Newspaper 2002

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