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 spacecraft prepares for March 12 launch to study earth's dynamic magnetic space environment

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Living in the genetic comfort zone

2 hours ago

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

'Bright spot' on Ceres has dimmer companion

4 hours ago

Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA's Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) ...

Key facts on US 'open Internet' regulation

4 hours ago

A landmark ruling by the US Federal Communications Commission seeks to enshrine the notion of an "open Internet," or "net neutrality." Here are key points:

Spotify deals with random shuffle and we mortals

4 hours ago

How do we mortals perceive random sequences? An entry in the question-and-answer site Quora focused on a question involving a music-streaming service Spotify. That question signifies how we perceive what ...

Recommended for you

Study of atmospheric 'froth' may help GPS communications

7 hours ago

When you don't know how to get to an unfamiliar place, you probably rely on a smart phone or other device with a Global Positioning System (GPS) module for guidance. You may not realize that, especially at ...

SMAP satellite extends 5-meter reflector boom

7 hours ago

Like a cowboy at a rodeo, NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), has triumphantly raised its "arm" and unfurled a huge golden "lasso" (antenna) that it will soon ...

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.