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Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Capsule with comet dust heads to Houston

January 17, 2006

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— The Stardust space capsule that returned to Earth with comet debris suffered just a small nick when it landed in the Utah desert - a huge relief for NASA after a similar space probe cracked open two years ago.

Technicians at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground spent Monday readying the capsule for a flight today to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Scientists there will unlock the inside canister for their first peek.

The Stardust capsule survived a fiery plunge through the atmosphere early Sunday, parachuting to the Utah salt flats. It bounced three times in soft mud before coming to rest on its side.

The landing chipped off a piece of the capsule's heat shield, meant to protect it as it re-enters Earth. But the capsule and its canister were in otherwise good shape, said Joe Vellinga of Lockheed Martin, which built the capsule.

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