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star stuff

'We are all star stuff; the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out"
- Delenn, to Capt Sheridan (Babylon 5)

I've always liked that "star stuff" statement :-)

And star stuff in human form are trying to help figure out the universe in numerous ways:

  • From Mensa Barbie's articles HERE and HERE, I found out about the Stardust mission which retrieved the first samples from a comet named Wild 2, which was about 500 million miles from Earth when Stardust launched in 1999. After its historic return to Earth earlier this month, scientists believe this Stardust's cargo will help provide answers to fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system. NASA Stardust page HERE. Christian Science Monitor "What scientists hope to learn from a wisp of comet dust: Star dust from NASA's mission is expected to shed light on the genesis of the Earth's solar system" article HERE

  • sometimes it's not so rosy a picture: today marks the 20th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Articles HERE and HERE. NASA's history page with lots of links HERE.

  • NASA was also in the news recently for postponing a mission (Dawn) to visit asteroids (Yahoo!News article HERE) due to cost overruns and technical issues. Powered by an ion engine fueled by the xenon gas, Dawn was to make a nine-year journey to Ceres and Vesta, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and spend months orbiting these two large asteroids to study them in depth. Dawn Mission Overview page.

  • Then there's the New Horizons mission to Pluto: the first of the New Frontiers program of medium-class planetary missions. "As the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon Charon, New Horizons looks to unlock one of the solar system's last, great planetary secrets. The New Horizons spacecraft will cross the entire span of the solar system and conduct flyby studies of Pluto and Charon in 2015. The seven science instruments on the piano-sized probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres." That's in July 2015. Then from 2016 - 2020 it's going to enounter the mysterious Kuiper Belt, an area of space that harbors over 800 Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) or planetoids, some of them being as large as Pluto itself!

    I first heard about this from Randy Cassingham, who used to work for JPL/NASA and was involved in some very early Pluto-related work; His little write-up HERE. NASA New Horizons page HERE.

And of course there are so many other missions by not only NASA but also Russia, and to some extent China, Japan...

Will all this help us understand ourselves, and our place/role in the universe? After all... 'We are all star stuff; the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out"

And maybe,,, just maybe,,,, with all that activity out there... we may make first contact one day....


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