Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NASA Stardust to Return Comet Samples Soon

NASA's comet sample return spacecraft, Stardust, is scheduled to land in the Utah Test and Training Range on January 15. Stardust was launched in 1999 on a 2.8 billion mile round trip to collect soil samples from Comet Wild 2.
NASA's previous attempt to collect a return sample from the Genesis Spacecraft ended in disaster when the probe crashed into the desert rather than being plucked from mid-air by helicopter as was planned.
Unlike Genesis however, the Stardust probe is releasing a return capsule designed to hit the Earth, albeit after being slowed by parachutes. Interstellar dust and samples of material ejected from Comet Wild 2, collected during the Stardust mission, are housed in a shielded portion of the probe, protected from the rigors of the re-entry.

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