This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo program that culminated with landing on the moon. N Cal/Nev AAPT is pleased to commemorate mankind’s greatest adventures with a special appearance of Sy Liebergot.
Sy spoke about what it was like to be a Mission Flight Controller when a monster failure occurred during the Apollo 13 mission and landed squarely in his lap. He related the general details of the explosion as they really happened.
“Taking a Ride on the Wild Side: The Successful Stardust Sample Return Mission to Comet 81P/Wild 2”
One of the rare sample return mission meant to analyze the composition of a comet. There are long term benefits to sample return missions including future study and analyses that were not developed or wanted at the time of the original mission. Stardust had to make three elliptical orbits of different sizes in order to get the right timing to collect from the comet. Sandford discusses the design of Stardust including specific design challenges such as the 6km/s average speed of particles within the coma of the comet. The Wild 2 comet uses areogel to collect material from the coma. After collection, the spacecraft returned to Earth’s orbit and only the collection capsule returned to earth. The spacecraft used a heat shield similar to the Apollo missions to return to Earth in Utah Test and Training Range. Sandford helped to collect the capsule in Utah which included several practice ones involving dropping mock capsules at the range. The December 15, 2006 issue of “Science” has a detailed article about the results. The results were surprising, samples were found of more complex materials than expected and some minerals that were usually found only in hotter conditions. Several samples were also a lot larger than expected and disagrees with the traditional theory that comets are made of miscellaneous interstellar material.
Additional information available on the Stardust Mission website.