The Stardust Discovery Mission - Returning Unique Samples of Early Solar System Organics
When: April 24, 2006 11AM PDT
On January 2, 2004, the STARDUST spacecraft made the closest ever flyby (236 km) of the nucleus of a comet – Comet Wild 2. During the flyby the spacecraft collected samples of dust from the coma of the comet. These samples were successfully returned to Earth on January 15, 2006. After a six-month preliminary examination to establish the nature of the returned samples, they will be made available to the general scientific community for study.
During my talk I will discuss the scientific goals of the STARDUST mission and provide a brief overview of the mission’s design and flight. I will also discuss the recovery of the Stardust Sample Return Capsule (SRC), with an emphasis on those aspects of the recovery important for minimizing the degree of contamination (particularly organic contamination) of the samples. Finally, the first samples are only just now being distributed for preliminary examination, but I hope to be able to talk about some of the preliminary findings from the returned comet samples.