Update: 25 Sep 06 - CAPTEM Recommendations

Stardust@home project news.

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Stardust@home Team
Stardust@home Team
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Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:28 am
Location: UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab

Update: 25 Sep 06 - CAPTEM Recommendations

Post by bmendez » Mon Sep 25, 2006 5:30 pm

How do you work with a $200 million collector? An update.

On September 18, the Stardust@home project director, Andrew Westphal, presented the current status of the Stardust@home search to the CAPTEM Stardust Oversight Committee at the Lunar and Planetary Institute near NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Dr. Westphal is also the chair of the committee, but he set aside that role when making this presentation. The question at issue was: how do we further investigate the candidate interstellar tracks that Stardust@home collaborators -- you!! -- have identified, with minimal risk to the collector? If this were almost any other piece of hardware, there would be very little discussion: we would just yank out aerogel tiles and look at them under a microscope. But if we accidentally damage or destroy the Stardust Interstellar Collector, it would cost more than $200 million, and many years, to get another one. So, we have to be extremely careful and cautious with anything that we do to this collector.

Many options were discussed by the committee, including extracting tracks directly from the tray in aerogel "keystones" (tiny wedge-shaped sections of aerogel surrounding the tracks), extracting individual tiles, and several other possibilities. In the end, the committee came to a consensus and recommended the following approach:

Try to evaluate candidate interstellar tracks by oblique viewing, gently folding back foils and viewing in transmitted illumination, and viewing the tracks through the back of the tile with the tray inverted. Defer any tile or keystone extraction until we evaluate using these minimal-contact methods. In anticipation of the eventual need to extract tracks, a tile from the flight spare should be used to experiment on. Also, the possibility of keystoning using the microscope stage for motion and a glass needle fixed to the microscope head should be evaluated.

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