Fresh from its fall to Earth last weekend, the Stardust sample return capsule has been opened in a cleanroom at the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas.
“It exceeds all expectations,” said Donald Brownlee, Stardust’s lead scientist from the University of Washington, Seattle. “It’s a huge success,” he explained in a University of Washington statement released today.
“We can see lots of impacts. There are big ones, there are small ones. The big ones you can see from 10 feet away,” Brownlee observed.
A preliminary estimation is that there might be more than a million microscopic specks of dust embedded in Stardust’s aerogel-laden collector. Furthermore, it appears—from the size of the carrot-shaped impact tracks in the aerogel—that there are about 10 particles of 100 microns in size.