Barberini: Looking Forward
Stardust is the name of the space probe that NASA realized and launched into space, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, on 7 February 1999.
The aim was to collect the molecules and fragments coming from the comets Wild 2 e Tempel 1.
Why do comets attract so much interest? Probably it is because, thanks to comets, we can stare into space beyond any boundary searching for the spark which gave birth to the Universe.
Comets spend most of their life in the most remote and coldest parts of the Solar system; therefore, the material they are made of undergoes few variations thus far.
The mission of the Stardust probe was to obtain material samples from the comet tail through a specific tennis-racket-sized collector, in order to discover the deepest secrets of the Universe, by analyzing the smallest particles they are made of.
Since 15 January 2006, date in which the sample return capsule landed in the Utah Desert, a team of scientists has led a project aimed at analyzing the interstellar dust collected by the probe. Furthermore, this team of scientists has also enlisted 30.000 volunteers through the web portal stardust@home.
The scientists’ current opinion is that the dust collected by the Stardust probe dates back to millions of years ago and is a part of what remains of an enormous interstellar explosion.
Certainly the Stardust mission will keep the scientific community occupied for decades, because the technology is constantly evolving; therefore, the measurements presently carried out, could change in the future due to the creation of new devices or methodologies.
We suggest you to be ready, because even years later its mission, the Stardust probe could surprise us.