At 19.44 hours GMT on 2nd January NASA’s space probe, STARDUST, successfully flew through Comet Wild 2, collecting interstellar particles and dust on its way. One of the instruments on board, the Dust Flux Monitor Instrument (DFMI), has been built by a team which include space scientists from the Open University.
Since its launch in February 1999, STARDUST has covered 3.2 billion km (2.3 billion miles). It is the first mission designed to bring samples back from a known comet. The study of comets provides a window into the past as they are the best preserved raw materials in the Solar System. The cometary and interstellar dust samples collected will help provide answers to fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system.
Professor Tony McDonnell and Dr Simon Green from the Open University’s Planetary and Space Science Research Institute (PSSRI) are currently at the mission command centre, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where they are beginning to receive data from their instrument.
Gill Ormrod | alfa
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