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Ask OCE — February 8, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 3


Four days after a capsule from the Stardust explorer successfully returned to Earth from a seven-year journey of almost three billion miles, the fastest spacecraft in history began a three billion mile trip of its own to Pluto.

The Stardust capsule landed as planned in the Utah desert on January 15, little more than two years after collecting dust from the Wild 2 comet near Jupiter. During the course of its journey, Stardust also collected particles from other stars that constantly flow through the solar system.

Read more about Stardust’s Aerogel collectors.

Read’s description of the Stardust spacecraft.

The Pluto mission, New Horizons, lifted off from Cape Canaveral on January 19, after two days of delays caused by bad weather. New Horizons, which was launched from an Atlas V rocket, is capable of reaching speeds of 36,000 miles per hour, making it fast enough to pass the moon in nine hours. Since its journey to the Kuiper Belt will put it well beyond the reach of the sun’s rays, the spacecraft will rely on a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) powered by highly radioactive plutonium.

Read Aviation Week and Space Technology’s description of the engineering challenges of the New Horizons mission.

In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

NASA in Washington: John Marburger’s Call for a Single LANDSAT Spacecraft (PDF)

This Week in NASA History: Space Shuttle Challenger

James Barrowman on Defining Requirements

Modeling the Way We Work

Stardust Returns, New Horizons Takes Off

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