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Stardust Samples Amaze Researchers, as Mothership is Eyed for Recon

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-21-06 02:33 AM
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Stardust Samples Amaze Researchers, as Mothership is Eyed for Recon

A Tale of Two Comets -
NASA's Stardust Samples Amaze Researchers, as Mothership is Eyed for Recon at Deep Impact Site

By Craig Covault/Houston

Sunday, March 19, 2006

In a dramatic bid to maximize the utilization of existing, low- cost planetary spacecraft, researchers want to divert the NASA/Lockheed Martin Stardust comet-sample-return mothership to intercept and image a second comet, blasted open last July 4 by the Deep Impact mission.

If the new mission receives final approval, the Stardust orbit would be adjusted later for a reconnaissance of the 70-ft.-deep, Rose-Bowl-sized crater that Deep Impact violently excavated on the comet Tempel 1, 83 million mi. from Earth.

The objective had been for the NASA/Ball Aerospace Deep Impact flyby spacecraft to image Tempel 1's subsurface geologic strata, a mission now being sought for Stardust.

Deep Impact was unable to image the crater because of the unexpectedly dense and opaque debris cloud from the blast caused by its 820-lb. impactor that struck the Tempel 1 at 30,000 fps. The flight�s total mission cost was $328 million.


The new Stardust sample data are themselves colliding headlong with previous comet theories compiled without the benefit of samples. The analysis show the diverse minerals found in the Wild 2 Stardust samples (see photo above) had to have been formed as extremely hot materials near the core of a primordial planetary nebula around a star�either the Sun or some other distant star.

This is the opposite of existing models of comet formation that have them most likely made up of the coldest�not the hottest�debris from the frigid outer edges of a planetary nebula or the cur-rent Solar System. The distinction matters tremendously to planetary science, because it will affect broad theories on the formation of this and other solar systems.

The findings stunned the more than 1,500 international planetary scientists and managers at the 37th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) here near the Johnson Space Center (JSC).

Other major LPSC highlights include new evidence to bolster earlier controversial evidence for past microbial life on Mars and European and U.S. lunar mission actions (see pp. 29 and 34).


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benburch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-21-06 02:28 PM
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1. I can't wait for the Stardust At Home to start!
Kick-off date is April 5th, unless there is another delay.
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