Feeds

Stardust floats gently to Earth

Comet-sample capsule successfully recovered

Security for virtualized datacentres

Stardust recovery team transports capsule - photo NASAScientists worldwide are toasting the successful return to Earth of NASA's Stardust mission - a seven-year jaunt during which the vehicle captured samples from comet Wild 2's tail and, the team hopes, some interstellar dust.

The 46kg sample capsule hit the Earth's atmosphere just before 10:00 GMT yesterday, having separated from the main spacecraft fours hours previously. At 105,000ft, its drogue parachute opened, providing some initial braking before the main 'chute deployed at 10,000 ft. The capsule finally hit the ground in the Utah desert at 10:12 GMT, travelling at roughly 10mph. It bounced three times before coming to rest on its side.

The helicopter-borne recovery team, guided by Stardust's onboard Ultra High Frequency beacon, used GPS and infrared imaging equipment to find the capsule in the complete darkness. It was then moved to a cleanroom at the Michael Army Air Field, Dugway Proving Ground, for "initial processing", before dispatch to NASA's Johnston Space Center in Houston.

Once there, its "Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector" - a silicon-based sponge called "aerogel", arranged in a disk-shaped mosaic of tiles about 16 inches in diameter and half-an-inch thick - will be put under an "automated microscope to digitally photograph the entire area of the aerogel in patches that can be viewed later in search of dust particles".

Which is where Joe Public can get in on the act. The University of California, Berkeley, is publishing the miscroscope's output via a "virtual microscope", allowing "anyone with an internet connection to scan some of the 1.5 million pictures of the aerogel for tracks left by speeding dust. Each picture will cover an area smaller than a grain of salt." There's more details on how you can get involved in spacedust-hunting in our previous report here.

Scientists, meanwhile, are licking their lips at the prospect of getting their hands on some comet dust. Five British institutions are involved in the project - Imperial College, Natural History Museum, Open University, University of Kent and University of Manchester. Dr Phil Bland of the Imperial College and Natural History Museum team enthused: "Its incredible that in a few days time we're going to have bits of comet in our lab - for me it's a dream come true, to have the opportunity to analyse samples like this. What is especially exciting is that we could be getting fundamental information about how the solar system formed, within just a few hours."

There's lots more Stardust material on the dedicated NASA website. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.