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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:

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.

Question13. How long will it take to analyze the samples?

The audio recording is 1:18 minutes

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Full Transcript (below)

13. How long will it take to analyze the samples?(1:18 minutes)

Dr. Scott Sandford: "Okay, well, how long will it take to analyze the sample return? Ah, the short answer is probably forever, in a sense, because as time goes on, people develop new analytical techniques, and one of the advantages of a sample return mission as opposed to a remote sensing mission is that if you develop a new analytical technique, you can just take the sample back out of the drawer, basically, and re-measure it. So, if you want to use the Antarctic meteorites or the Apollo moon rock returns, as an example, those – you know – the Apollo rocks were – initially started coming back in 1969, and they’ve been analyzed ever since. There are still people analyzing them now because as we learn more, we develop new questions, and go back to the samples to do further follow-on studies. People develop new techniques, and they want to go back and try those, and so on. And, so, when the samples come back from Stardust, there’ll be a brief period – less than six months – where we’ll assess what we got back. So, we’ll do a little bit of studying just to make sure we got the sample back we wanted, and it’s in good shape. Then after that it’ll be made available to the general scientific community for study. And my guess is people will be asking for those samples, and working on them for decades to come. And may, ahh, to a certain extent, never stop studying them at some level as we develop new techniques and new questions."

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