Learning English - Words in the News
16 January, 2006 - Published 16:02 GMT
Stardust mission returns to Earth
A NASA space mission has safely returned with a cargo of dust from a comet 400 million kilometres away. The Stardust mission is intended to show how the solar system formed billions of years ago. This report from Roland Pease:
An outburst of relief as Stardust finally landed in the Utah desert after a four and a half billion kilometre journey that had taken the craft half way out to Jupiter and through the tail of a comet. The comet it had met was itself a visitor from the outer limits of the solar system and the dust particles it shed, and which Stardust caught, have been untouched since the Solar System formed billions of years ago.
The cannister containing the precious dust won't be opened until it reaches NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston on Tuesday. Only then will it be known if the mission was a complete success.
A hundred and fifty scientists around the world are lined up to do the preliminary analysis and the tiny grains, all finer than the width of a human hair, will keep astronomers busy for years. This will be the first time any of them has been able to study the primordial stuff of the solar system in the lab.
Roland Pease, BBC Science Correspondent