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Links to broadcast quality audio files and transcripts -- Dr. Scott Sandford, astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., was interviewed about the Stardust comet sample-return mission – humanity’s first opportunity to study the original material from which our solar system was built. Launched in 1999, the mission is flying to a rendezvous with the Wild-2 (pronounced VILD-TWO) comet in 2004 and is scheduled to return samples of cometary dust to Earth in 2006. The stardust mission is slated to be the first to return a sample from outside the Earth’s moon system. More information about the mission is on the Internet at: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/

This interview was posted on the web April 28, 2003. Sandford provided these comments prior to a talk he gave about the mission at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, Calif. on April 23.

Question12. What is your role in the mission?

The audio recording is 1:52 minutes

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Full Transcript (below)


12. What is your role in the mission?(1:52 minutes)

Dr. Scott Sandford: "Ah, yes, I guess you can call me an astronomer. I do – ha, ha – all kinds of things. But most of these missions are usually designed so they have a principal investigator. So, there’s someone who’s in charge of the whole thing, and that’s Donald Brownlee at the University of Washington in Seattle. And, then, a team of co-investigators who are various people who help with the scientific aspects of the mission, and different co-I’s may have different roles. And I played a number of roles in the mission, as have all the other co-I’s. But I’ve given some of my attention to trying to make sure we can control the contamination issues – make sure the sample get back without getting terrestrial contamination on it, and so on – work to help with some of the issues associated with the collector medium, this aerogel, to make sure it’s as clean as possible. Ahh – and when, for example, the sample comes back, I’ll be playing a role in terms of doing a preliminary analysis of the return capsule and its contents. They’ll be a small team of us to try to assess what we actually got back from the comet so we can verify we did get a useful sample. Umm, I should stress once we know we’ve got the sample back, that the samples will be handled in much the same way that the lunar samples and meteorites collected in Antarctica are handled which is they go to the … facility at Johnson Space Center. And then they’re made available to scientists around the world to study. So, in other words, the Stardust team – the people who have been running this mission – are not going to be doing all of the analysis of the samples. In fact, the worldwide science community will be doing that. Umm, in that way, we can sort of assure that we’ll maximize the scientific return from these samples by allowing lots of different people with lots of skills and lots of different technical-analytical tools to study these samples."

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