NASA’s Stardust mission requires more comet samples to understand Solar system

 

NASA’s Stardust mission which started back in 2006 is as fancy as its name sounds. The mission involved collecting samples from 81P/Wild comet also known as Wild 2 which dates back to the beginning of the entire solar system and is supposedly said to contain clues about the earliest history. The researchers who have been analyzing the samples since they are of the opinion that more comet samples are needed on an urgent basis to understand the history of the solar system more thoroughly.

One of the much talked about papers titled ‘The future of the Stardust science”, has summarized more than 150 scientific publications on the Stardust mission. It makes an imperative point about the limitations of our insight into the early protosolar disk of gas and dust which is the formation base for the solar system.  from which the nearby planetary group shaped — that Wild 2 and the other Kuiper Belt comets, those starting from the ring of frosty bodies past the orbit of Neptune) are ineffectively represented to in our examples of extraterrestrial material.

One of the senior members of Stardust team, Andrew Westphal, emphasized on seeking out more material from Kuiper belt to make the study on earth more relevant and powerful because of its origins. According to Westphal, getting farther and farther for sample collection ensures that you lay your hands on something more primitive. Especially in case of the comet because the sample extracted would be in the deep freeze for 4.6 billion years. Comets in the Kuiper belt possess at least ten-per cent unaltered material which contains pre-solar grains from the time before the solar system was even formed.

The stardust investigators found no volatiles (molecules with a low boiling point) for example water, in these samples as nothing of this sort sustained due to the being slamming into aerogel and the aluminium foil collector at the speed of 3.8 miles per second. The rocks were preserved but the water did not survive the process of sample extraction. This led to investigators looking for phyllosilicates (Clay with water preserved inside) but no favourable findings were brought to the front so far as the material collected from the Stardust did not yield any sort of phyllosilicates. Now all eyes are focusing on the CAESAR (Comet Astrobiology Exploration sample return) probe that is being considered by NASA and will be launched around 2020 to snag samples from 67P and return the same back to the earth.