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 humanitys 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 Earths 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.
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7. What do you think we are going to learn from the samples?(1:01 minutes)
Dr. Scott Sandford: "Well, what are we going to learn from these samples? Ahh, were not sure, actually, because, of course, no ones ever gotten a known sample from a comet. However, most people think that comets are made up of very primitive materials the basic building blocks from which our solar system was made. And that since the comet was made, it hasnt been altered much. The comets havent gotten hot, they havent undergone geological processing, and so on. And, so, we suspect that is what we in fact see when we study this dust is get a real sense of what were the starting materials from which our solar system was made. So, it may be that well see a very large mixture of materials. We may see organic hydrocarbons, silicate minerals you know various kinds of dirt, basically, all some of the grains are likely to have exotic isotopic ratios that will give us an indication that were looking at materials that arent as old as the solar system, but are in fact older than the solar system. In other words, well look at materials that existed before the solar system formed and then got incorporated into the solar system as it was forming without being changed or destroyed."
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