Related:NASA scientist calls probe mission "full success"
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- After a 7-year space Odyssey of about 4.5 billion kilomters, a capsule carrying the first comet sample landed on the salt flats in Utah state safely early Sunday morning.
|NASA's Stardust spacecraft successfully released its capsule carrying cometary and interstellar dust.|
The Stardust capsule, which returned to Earth at about 2:12 Pacific time (1012 GMT), is expected to provide clues to the origins of the solar system. Experts with U.S. space agency NASA had been waiting all the night when the capsule blazed across the pre-dawn sky.
"It's a perfect landing...we are jumping and applauding," Dr. Peter Tsou, the deputy investigator who put forward the plan first in year 1981, told Xinhua in a telephone interview. "I can hardly sleep. Nevertheless I had been waiting 25 years before this night."
"This mission is too important for me," said Tsou, who is among the team awaiting the capsule in Utah. Born in China and educated in the United States, Tsou is a senior researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) based in Pasadena, California.
Now the recovery team has been sent to look for the capsule and deliver it to the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, for initial processing, Tsou said.
|Scientists are making sure that the Stardust have conducted the testing trials.|
After entering the Earth atmosphere at about 1:58 Pacific time, the capsule released a drogue parachute at an altitude of approximately 32 kilometers, and then, when it descended to an altitude of about 3 kilometers, the main parachute deployed to further decelerate the capsule.
The velocity of the sample return capsule as it entered Earth's atmosphere at 46,440 kilometers per hour is the greatest of any human-made object on record, surpassing the record set in May 1969 during the return of the Apollo 10 command module.
The landing process actually began at about 21:56 Pacific time (0556 GMT Sunday) when the Stardust released the capsule to Earth.
Fifteen minutes later, the spacecraft ignited its thrusters and performed a maneuver to enter orbit around the Sun, while the capsule dropped freely into Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 125 kilometers over northern California.