On February 7, 1999, this honeycomb of aluminum cells filled with airgel was launched with the Stardust probe into the interplanetary space. The objective of the Stardust was to collect dust from a comet's tail and return with it to Earth.
This 1,000 square centimeter area structure was prepared to collect dust just 150 kilometers from the P / Wild-2 core, new to the inner solar system.
After spending almost all of its existence between the orbits of Jupiter and Uranus, it was diverted in 1974 as it approached Jupiter, and now orbits between Jupiter and Earth. The P / Wild-2 powder hits the airgel at high speed until it stops, after leaving carrot-shaped marks in this transparent, surprisingly resistant and ultra-low density material.
Upon returning to Earth using parachutes in 2006, the cometary dust will be analyzed for clues about the formation and composition of the solar system.
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