January 10, 2005

Stardust "Older Than the Sun" Inbound This Sunday

FILE UNDER "Age of Miracles and Wonders." Samples from deep space are coming in "faster than any man-made object has ever come in before."

For seven years now, the little ship has wandered the inner solar system, working flawlessly despite the extremes of outer space. Its makers have called it Stardust....

What can get overlooked amid the drama of the return is the reason Stardust was sent into space in the first place.

"Our mission is called Stardust, in part, because we believe some of the particles in the comet will, in fact, be older than the sun," said Don Brownlee of the University of Washington, the principal investigator for the mission.

"Comets may be responsible for bringing the oceans and atmosphere to early Earth," said Andrew Dantzler, who directs solar system exploration for NASA. It is believed that after the sun and planets formed, the solar system became crowded with comets and other leftover debris crashing frequently to Earth — and perhaps carrying the chemical building blocks for life as it exists today.

Stardust came within 150 miles of its target comet, passing through its "coma," the cloud of dust and ice that surrounds it. As Brownlee pointed out, the comet has probably been spewing the same material for more than 4.5 billion years. Having this material in the lab, scientists say, is well worth the $168 million the mission cost.

They will be out in the cold Utah night waiting for their ship, and Tom Duxbury, the project manager, said the streak of the re-entering capsule will be visible up and down the West Coast.

"We are coming in," he said, "faster than any man-made object has ever come in before."

More on: Stardust: A peek into the past

Posted by Vanderleun at January 10, 2005 11:23 AM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

This wondrous adventure reminded me of some lines I wrote when much younger as I walked in Sussex, England, before light pollution ruined the Sky at Night.

The Pollution of Evolution
By Frank Pulley

On a clear, still night in Sussex
I looked across the sky
And glimpsed the planet Venus
Bright and glittering on high.

I pondered, as I wondered,
'Neath her reflective light
On what the scientists tell us
Of Venus and her plight.

She is shrouded in a deadly gas;
Deluged by acid rain.
Her days are longer than her years;
She spins against the grain.

She is hot as hell but beautiful;
Mysterious and wild.
She is one of our close family:
Earth's sister and Sun's child.

Is is possible that long ago
Before the Earth had cooled
That Venus teemed with human life?
That they also were fooled

Into thinking that tomorrow
Is just another day?
That humanity's survival
Would continue, come what may?

Did they, too, destroy their atmosphere
By failing to refrain
From fouling up their stratosphere,
The sea and the terrain?

Then, just before Apocalypse
On that sinistral globe -
Did they send a seed to planet Earth,
In a Venusian space probe?

And did that seed land in our seas
Where Africa first grew
Creating a amoeba
Which evolved to me and you?

Will then the fate of Venus
Be repeated once again?
And will Earth spend its final days
Awash in acid Rain?

Posted by: Frank Pulley at January 10, 2006 5:29 PM

Yes, but WHAT ELSE will they bring from out there? I´m stocking up on water, rations and shells just in case.

Posted by: wf at January 14, 2006 4:27 AM