Key 'Stardust' spacecraft find questioned

Apr 09, 2007

Spanish scientists say one of the major discoveries from last year's "Stardust" space mission might have resulted from rocket booster contamination.

Stardust was the first U.S. space mission to capture samples from a comet and return the material to Earth. But scientists were surprised to find Stardust had collected tiny grains of the mineral osbornite, which chemically is titanium nitride.

Astronomers concluded the osbornite could have formed near the sun, and ejected to the outer reaches of the solar system -- an indication that the infant solar system was a much more violent and place then previous believed.

But Jesus Martinez-Frias and colleagues at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid suggest another possible explanation.

The researchers note the Stardust's rocket thrusters used a propellant of ultra-pure hydrazine, which is also used to make titanium nitride on Earth, and might have reacted in space with titanium from the comet or spacecraft to form titanium nitride.

Martinez-Frias and colleagues say further studies are needed before reaching a final conclusion on the osbornite origin.

The theory is detailed in the May 16 issue of the journal Energy & Fuels.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Explore further: NASA orders first ever commercial human spaceflight mission from Boeing

Related Stories

EPA says first day of oil spill spent 'planning'

5 hours ago

On the afternoon of the largest coastal oil spill in California in 25 years, graduate student Natalie Phares quickly organized a volunteer bucket brigade to clean a beach north of Santa Barbara.

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

5 hours ago

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope ...

Recommended for you

What is lunar regolith?

15 hours ago

When you're walking around on soft ground, do you notice how your feet leave impressions? Perhaps you've tracked some of the looser earth in your yard into the house on occasion? If you were to pick up some ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.