New World of Iron Rain: on the work by Dimitar Sasselov and team involving the transit technique of locating planets around distant stars and and a new planet found by that method, OGLE-TR-56b. The Jupiter-sized planet orbits star OGLE-TR-56 every 29 hours. The atmosphere there is such that the weather might well include rain of liquid iron.
- A New Transiting Extrasolar Giant Planet
- The Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment
- The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia
[via A Voyage to Arcturus]
Rand reviews this year's happenings in space policy: launch failures, budget issues, a reusable launch vehicle program, and private space initiatives, to name a few.
Galactic cannibalism Michael Odenkirchen and Eva Grebel of the MPIA have taken data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to create an image of a globular cluster, Palomar 5, which the Milky Way is tearing apart as they pass each other. The tails of the cluster were detected in some of the early data from the survey a couple of years ago. Now the surrounding stars have been filtered out to create the image of them and expanding data in the survey shows that that the tails reach longer than originally thought.
Image from MPIA press release
See also: Palomar 5: A Globular Cluster Torn Apart By The Milky Way (note: this page uses the classic encryption method of black text on a background image of deep space. You may need to "select all" to read it).
See what sneaks up on you when you stop paying attention to the world for a little while? Endeavour is scheduled to launch tonight at 7:44 Eastern, weather permitting, to deliver a fresh crew to the station and to continue work on the station's robot arm.
Ice reservoirs found on Mars: The Mars Odyssey's Gamma Ray Spectrometer has found large quantities of ice beneath the surface of Mars. This isn't the first find of water on Mars (and it seems there may have been photographic evidence as far back as 1980), but the volume found in this discovery could be significant for the possibility of life and the support of future manned exploration.
The Strange Case of the Iron Sun: on Oliver Manuel and his alternative theory of the evolution of the Sun. He claims his research points to the Sun having evolved from the out of a supernova and that a neutron star still forms its nucleus. The technical details can be found on his site.
Manuel fits a popular stereotype, the lone dissenter promoting a new idea that flies in the face of the scientific establishment. In the real world, some of these theories eventually have been proven right but vastly more have been proven wrong. Manuel is under no illusions about the popularity of his idea. "Ninety-nine percent of the field will tell you it's junk science," he says. The evidence weighs in heavily against him. If he's right, however, we need to completely rethink how planetary systems form. Even if he's wrong, some scientists say, at least he has made people think.
Home Alone in the Universe?: Fred Heeren examines the search for extraterrestial intelligence, the impacts its success would have for religion, and the reasons to think we won't be making contact other intelligent life anytime soon, if ever. [via Fragments from Floyd (Va)]
The Soyuz carrying the second tourist, Mark Shuttleworth, to the space station took off this morning from Baikonur for an eight day visit to the station. Meanwhile, news is starting to emerge about an overly rough return flight for the first visitor, Dennis Tito, last year. [via NASA Watch]
NRO, Space Command, NASA Tout Common Language Of "Space Supremacy" at Conference: on the increased attention to military use of space, as demonstrated at this year's National Space Symposium.
Teets and U.S. Space Command Commander in Chief Gen. Ed Eberhart were not shy in reiterating the message that the U.S. controls the planet through control of planetary space. Teets updated an earlier saying of former NRO Director Keith Hall by proclaiming that "Afghanistan has reinforced something about space dominance: We have it, we like it, and we're going to keep it."
Civilian interests under NASA are bowing to the new realities of the military setting the agenda. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe revealed that the agency's top budget priority for fiscal 2003 will be to spend close to $1 billion in nuclear propulsion, exploring both radioisotope thermal generators such as those used for Cassini, as well as possible mini-reactors for deep-space missions. O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary and Pentagon comptroller, also reiterated how well NASA had served the Pentagon in providing imagery for the Afghan war, such as SeaWiFS and Terra spacecraft images provided to the Navy. O'Keefe said that NASA was looking forward to providing agency resources for the "war on terror."
During yesterday's third spacewalk by the Atlantis astronauts they got the station's Canadarm2 robot arm hooked up to its new Mobile Transporter, a railcar which will let the robot arm move around on the space station. There's one more piece that needs to be added for that to work: the Mobile Base System, which will be installed in June.
See also: The Amazing Canadarm2
The second of STS-110's spacewalks is scheduled to start this morning at 10:34 Eastern. They'll be continuing to work on the new S0 truss they attached to the station on Thursday.
Two stars have recently been identified by astronomers using the Chandra as being possible quark stars. These have so far just been a theory: that the extreme pressure in neutron stars could break the neutrons down into their constituent quarks.
- Is RX J185635-375 a Quark Star?
- New Constraints on Neutron Star Cooling from Chandra Observations of 3C58
Voyager Maintenance from 7 Billion Miles Away: on the planning and execution of JPL's switch to a backup navigation system for Voyager 1. The backup system had not been used since the launch 25 years ago.
Voyager 1's original attitude-control system showed slowly increasing signs of trouble in the past two years, said Tim Hogle, a flight-team engineer. Diagnostics pointed to an electronic component that takes analog signals from position-sensing devices and converts them into digital values for an onboard computer. Because of the system's design, switching to that component's backup also meant activating the backup Sun sensor and star tracker, which provide the reference points for the spacecraft's orientation in space.
Atlantis lifted off yesterday and is on track for a noon Eastern docking on Wednesday with the space station.
The High Energy Transient Experiment satellite, launched in 1996, never separated from the final stage of the Pegasus launch vehicle. It's coming back to earth in the next few days. Four 33 pound batteries are the only parts expected to survive reentry, but their impact point is not yet known. The current prediction for reentry is April 7th, at 4:41am Eastern and updates can be found here.
The shuttle launch has been pushed back to Monday, between 2p and 6p Eastern, due to the amount of repairs needed to fix the hydrogen leak.
The shuttle launch has been delayed due to a fuel leak. It's now no earlier than Sunday at an undisclosed time between 2pm and 6pm Eastern. It's been widely reported recently that the secret launch time is not so much of a secret as NASA might hope since it's shared with thousands of people involved in the space program and fairly easy to figure out with some math, a computer, and information on the orbits of the destination.
Atlantis is scheduled to lift off at tomorrow evening at 5:13 Eastern, but there is a 40 percent chance of a weather delay. See this entry from March for notes about the secrecy of the launch time and the plans for the mission.
The Pluto-Charon system is the only planet-satellite system in our solar system that has not been explored by spacecraft. Therefore, the state of knowledge about this system is necessarily more primitive than about any other planet. Despite this, however, many basic facts are established. These include the radius, mass, and density of Pluto (each known to better than 10%) and the radius of Charon (known to 5%), and the mass and density of Charon (known to about 25%). Importantly, Charon is almost precisely half the size of Pluto. Because the system barycenter is known to be outside Pluto (between the two bodies), the pair constitutes a true double planet - something unique in our solar system.
Astro Archive combines numerous astronomy related mailing lists into one searchable archive.
It took two years of hard work, but finally, on March the 12th, NASA announced that Sentry, its new automatic asteroid impact monitoring system, was beginning to be operated out of Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Sentry was built largely by Drs. Steve Chesley and Alan Chamberlin with technical help from Paul Chodas. To be more precise, Sentry is a highly automated system, designed to help scientists better communicate about the discoveries of new, potentially threatening Near Earth asteroids (NEAs) and their follow-up observations. While completely independent from other scienitific teams, it is in constant communication with the NEODyS CLOMON impact monitoring system, operated in Pisa, and researchers from the two systems are cooperating to check and improve their results.
The results showed the huge spherical rock swinging in and out of the inner solar system with its highly elliptical orbit bringing it ever closer to impact. Armageddon day comes on March 16, 2880, when the asteroid's path leads it directly across the earth's orbit.
See also: 'Green' satellite calls home
For a space elevator to function, a cable with one end attached to the Earth's surface stretches upwards, reaching beyond geosynchronous orbit, at 21,700 miles (35,000-kilometer altitude). After that, simple physics takes charge.
The competing forces of gravity at the lower end and outward centripetal acceleration at the farther end keep the cable under tension. The cable remains stationary over a single position on Earth. This cable, once in position, can be scaled from Earth by mechanical means, right into Earth orbit. An object released at the cable's far end would have sufficient energy to escape from the gravity tug of our home planet and travel to neighboring the moon or to more distant interplanetary targets.
[via Boing Boing]
A week-by-week viewing guide to Comet Ikeya-Zhang.
Astronomers working with the VLT and the TNG have discovered a binary star system made up of two white dwarfs which revolve around each other every 5 minutes, the fastest yet known. It's thought that these may be causing gravity waves which can be detected when LISA comes online in 10 years.
- RXJ0806.3+1527: a double degenerate binary with the shortest known orbital period (321s)
- RX J0806+15: the shortest period binary?
The second in a new series of TDRS communication satellites, which NASA uses to link its operations in orbit, including the shuttle, ISS, the Hubble, and other satellites, has failed to reach the correct orbit. Boeing is still working on the problem, but a shuttle mission to rescue or repair it is apparently being considered.
For security reasons, the exact time of the next space shuttle launch, currently scheduled for April 4th, will not be announced until 24 hours before the flight. Until then NASA will only be giving a 4 hour window, somewhere between 2pm and 6pm. This mission will deliver another piece of the Integrated Truss Structure and another piece of the station's robot arm.
The NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has released its annual report which points out the impact to shuttle safety from the budget situation and calls on NASA to plan upgrades to the shuttle now and to implement upgrades which are ready to go in.
The Panel has focused on the clear dichotomy between future Space Shuttle risk and the required level of planning and investment to control that risk. The Panel believes that current plans and budgets are not adequate. Last year's Annual Report highlighted these issues. It noted that efforts of NASA and its contractors were being primarily addressed to immediate safety needs. Little effort was being expended on long-term safety. The Panel recommended that NASA, the Administration, and Congress use a longer, more realistic planning horizon when making decisions with respect to the Space Shuttle.
Since last year's report was prepared, the long-term situation has deteriorated. The aformentioned budget constraints have forced the Space Shuttle program to adopt an even shorter planning horizon in order to continue flying safely. As a result, more items that should be addressed now are being deferred. This adds to the backlog of restorations and improvements required for continued safe and efficient operations. The Panel has significant concern with this growing backlog because identified safety improvements are being delayed or eliminated.
[via 2020 Hindsight]
The shuttle will be coming down tomorrow morning at either 4:32 or 6:32 Eastern.
How Osama won Europe the space race: Will Hutton on the importance of having access to space in general and satellite navigation specifically outside the control of a single country.
Six months ago, such a rash of unanimity of effort over space would have seemed impossible. The Ministry of Defence and the Treasury had firmly overruled the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office over the Skynet contract which was set to go to the US-led consortium, and the Europeans were wrangling interminably over the $2.2bn cost of the Galileo project. Then came the Afghan War and the show of US unilateralism - and the stunning demonstration via the interrelated network of predator planes, smart missiles and ground-based special forces, all using satellite technology, that space had come of age.
The Europeans have learned a salutary lesson; this technology is so important that they must have their own access and control of it - and the only way forward is to act together because no single European state can fund space technology itself. The Galileo programme is not yet certain - the key meeting of EU Transport Ministers is at the end of March and Britain is dragging its feet - but its prospects look immeasurably better. The law of unintended consequences has operated with devastating consequences. Osama bin Laden has revived Europe's interest in space.
The fifth and last spacewalk from Columbia is going on right now as the astronauts work to install a new cooling system for the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, which has been out of commission since 1999.
In the first of five spacewalks, the Hubble was given a new solar panel, smaller than the old ones but more sturdy and powerful. A second one will be installed in a walk starting at 1:30 Eastern Tuesday morning.
The Political Economy of Very Large Space Projects: John Hickman discusses some of the political and economic realities behind such things as space stations, Mars colonization, and star ships.
Space development enthusiasts typically explain the significance of their favorite very large space projects-whether constructing orbital colonies or cities beneath the surface of the Moon, terraforming Mars or Venus, or launching interstellar spacecraft-in terms of their promise to produce vast new wealth, open frontiers to serve as social "safety valves" for the ambitious or the dissenting, generate the novel problems that drive dramatic advances in science and engineering, provide new sources of natural resources, and permit population dispersal to assure the long term survival of our species. Without question, these are all laudable reasons for the adventure of space and any very large space project would probably meet several of these objectives. However, if the economic and social promise of these projects is so extraordinary, and if the social losses which result from failing to undertake them are so large, why haven't humans embarked on them? Why aren't we even close to beginning one of these great enterprises? Given the assertion made by many space development enthusiasts that the basic technology needed for their favorite projects already exists or can be developed from the available science, asking these questions is entirely fair. The answers must be found in political economy, some rudimentary understanding of which will be necessary before realistic planning for any very large space project can begin.
Pioneer-10 was successfully contacted today. Yesterday, about 3pm PST a 200 Kw uplink transmission from Goldstone California, the 70 meter DSN antenna DSS-14, was sent to Pioneer-10 and 22 hours later in Madrid Spain at the DSN 70 meter antenna DSS-63 the confirmation of contact was received. From a distance of 79.7 AU DSS-63 acquired the signal on time at about -183 dbm. They spent an hour peaking the signal (-178.5 dbm) and then they were able to lock up telemetry at 16 bps at an SNR of -0.5 db. Tracking continued until the elevation was about 20 degrees but enough telemetry was received to verify the state of Pioneer-10. Incidentally, the SETI institute also saw the signal from Arecibo in Puerto Rico. For years they have used Pioneer-10 as a reference for their investigations.
The spacecraft is still healthy. The power is still sufficient to support the loads with the bus voltage at about 26 volts (nominal is 28). The uplink from DSS-14 was received by the spacecraft at -131.7 dbm. The spacecraft is extremely cold, with many of the temperature readings at the bottom of their scales. Two commands were sent yesterday from Goldstone and both were confirmed to have been executed by the spacecraft. One scientific instrument is still on, the Geiger Tube Telescope, and Dr. James Van Allen, the PI, will be happy to hear he has some more data to look at.
The shuttle will continue it's mission for now, with mission control keeping an eye on the cooling system that's giving them trouble.
Columbia's launch has been delayed by at least 24 hours due to cold weather. Current schedule is for 6:22am Eastern on Friday, but the most recent weather forecast had a 70% chance of a 48 hour delay.
Virus 2: The Real Story of the 'Mir' Threat: do mutating viruses from the Mir pose a threat to the Earth, now that the space station has come crashing home?
Throughout Mir's life in space, the number of microorganisms grew continuously, one generation replacing another every 20-30 minutes. If in 1990 there were registered 94 species, in 2001 they numbered 140. But the real problem was not the species increasing in number but their growing aggressiveness: each new generation seemed to be more ferocious than the last.
[via abuddhas memes]
The countdown starts today for Columbia's first flight in over two years as it returns from a series of upgrades. It is scheduled to take off Thursday at 6:48am Eastern for a mission to service the Hubble.
Robert J. Lang is respected in the art community for folding a mean swan. He's written a half-dozen books on how to make paper airplanes, ants and animals. An admirer called one of his works "arguably the best moose design ever."
In engineering circles, Lang is known as a guy who can figure the best way to stow a car's airbag.
He's also the one they call when they realize that the 100-meter diameter sheet of plastic, part of The Eyeglass Space Telescope, has to fit into a 3x5 meter hole, without permanent creases. [via 2020 Hindsight]
"Magic number" for space pioneers calculated: a University of Florida anthropologist has calculated the minimum number of passengers needed on a generation starship in order to sustain a viable community. [via Boing Boing]
Why This Blog Bores People About Space Stuff: Rand at Transterrestrial Musings, which just got dropped onto my regular surf list, explains one reason why expanding our space program is so important, but one you won't hear NASA using to defend its budget requests. A few hundred years ago the founders of America walked away from an oppressive government they could no longer tolerate. Where will the refugees go if (I won't be so cynical as to say "when") the U.S. goes down that path? [via little green footballs]
How much will we learn from the CMB?: David Langlois discussed what we've learned so far about the cosmic microwave background radiation and what it could possibly tell us in the future about the early history of the universe in a talk given at a meeting last year, The Early Universe and Cosmological Observations: a Critical Review.
NASA and the other space station partners have finally agreed on the rules for space tourists, published as Principles Regarding Processes and Criteria for Selection, Assignment, Training and Certification of ISS (Expedition and Visiting) Crew Members. [via bottomquark]
In 2003, SkyCorp is planning to demonstrate on-orbit satellite construction as a way of lowering cost to orbit with a prototype called SuperSat. Their goal is to launch components on a shuttle flight and build the satellite in orbit.
As a Shuttle, ELV, and sounding rocket payload developer the author has been exposed to almost every conceivable launch environment. This experience showed that the design of satellites is primarily driven by the launch environment and only secondarily by the space environment. Therefore, eliminating dynamic and acoustic loads will have large payoffs in terms of the design, manufacture, test and deployment of spacecraft. Additionally, if the designer is freed from the geometric constraints of the payload fairing, new capabilities and weight efficient architectures can be implemented.
In considering the above in designing spacecraft the author has developed a new methodology that can considerably reduce the cost, increase the capabilities, and decrease the development time for spacecraft. The term developed for it is the SkySat on orbit assembly method. In the SkySat method the designer takes each significant subsystem of a spacecraft and physically breaks it down into components that can be stored in energy absorbing material encased in a container. These sub assemblies are carried to orbit on the Shuttle or expendable launcher. The cargo must be taken to ISS, another manned space facility or the Shuttle itself to be assembled, tested, and deployed.
Dennis Wingo, Transforming Spacecraft Economics Via On Orbit Assembly
Tuesday night, Bush points his finger at Iran and Iraq. Wednesday night, the EUVE reenters the atmosphere about 11:15pm Eastern over the Persian Gulf. The expected surviving bits are thought to have landed near the coast of Kuwait, Iran, and Iraq, but we won't know for sure for a few more hours. Who says we don't have space-based weapons?
The EUVE satellite is expected to come down in an uncontrolled reentry sometime overnight tonight. It could reenter between 10p and 7a Eastern time. Chunks weighing up to 100 pounds are expected to survive and impact anywhere from Brisbane to Orlando. NASA should have a better idea 12 hours before impact.
Update: The latest prediction is for impact around 11pm Eastern in the Atlantic Ocean. There will be an update posted on the Goddard site at 9:45pm.
The state power company in Russia, United Energy Services, cut power yesterday to several military bases including the control center responsible for monitoring military satellites and the space station. The government says the power company is in violation of decrees designating certain facilities as protected. A couple of years ago, troops were sent to some substations to prevent power from being turned off to nuclear missile bases.
Initially, Bigelow wanted to invest in the production of launch vehicles that would carry people and equipment into space. But he quickly realized there were already too many other firms competing for that very limited market. Instead, his millions are being used to create a sturdy, inexpensive space habitat, a module that would serve as the central building block for future space stations, space labs and space hotels. More than 40 world-class scientists, engineers and technicians are already on the payroll. Their goal is the design and production of living quarters that would dramatically alter the the cost of exploiting the true potential of space.
... the use of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems using radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations ...
A team including Michael Liu, Debra Fischer, James Graham, and Geoffrey Marcy used the Gemini Observatory to obtain an image of a brown dwarf orbiting closely around another star similar to our sun. The paper isn't available in the arXiv archive at the moment, I'll try to get a link to it when it is. Stories at BBC and space.com. Update: The paper, which will appear in the Astrophysical Journal, is now available.
An asteroid, 2001 YB5, discovered a month ago by the Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking telescope is passing within 830,000 kilometers from Earth: less than twice the distance of the moon. This is the closest approach predicted for this asteroid in this century.
The second space tourist, Mark Shuttleworth, will be going up to the station on April 20th.
Karl Schroeder has two articles describing the technology behind the interstellar cycler ships, like the ones proposed by Buzz Aldrin for Mars trips, behind his upcoming book, Permanence, and the development of the civilization based on them. Looks like it will be good. [via Boing Boing]
Want to know if you need something bigger than an umbrella when you go out? Check to see if there's anything scheduled to reenter the atmosphere.
U.S. officials are warning that the E.U.'s proposed navigation system, Galileo, could be used by an enemy and could interfere with GPS. In the midst of funding disputes, Chirac is using the project as an example of what Europe must do to keep from becoming "vassals" of the U.S. [via Interesting People]
The European Union is considering whether to go ahead with Galileo: a satellite based navigation system similar to the U.S.'s GPS and Russia's GLONASS. The system could be operational in 2008 with 30 satellites in orbit.
Japan heats up Asian space race: on Japan's contribution, the Kibo experiment module, to the ISS and its challenges in keeping up with its neighbors in exploiting space. Kibo is scheduled to be launched in 2004.
Are extraterrestials using antimatter in their starships? If so, they're not within 10AU of us, according to Michael Harris' study using data gained from the EGRET instrument on the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
A team using the Chandra has detected evidence that an elliptical galaxy, NGC 4636, is in an endless cycle of gas falling into the central black hole and causing explosions on the scale of several hundred thousand supernovas.
The NASA Advisory Council has released its report on the space station's management and spending. The cover letter lists their main findings, which recommend that NASA focus on the core U.S. section, which would continue to limit crew size to three and restrict the amount of work that can be done up there, while they work on getting their spending under control and restore their credibility. And what about our nation's credibility when we back out of commitments to the other countries who've spent considerable chunks of money on the station as well? The ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Science has rejected the report.
As the universe continues to expand, one astrophysicist has calculated that in billions of years astronomers will have nothing new to look at. Objects will become so distant that new light from them will never reach us. [via Honeyguide]
NASA has moved up the undocking of Endeavour from the space station to 11:37 Eastern this morning. The shuttle will first boost the station by about three-quarters of a mile to avoid a Russian booster rocket that is expected to pass too close for comfort.
In a pair of papers using different methods, astronomers working with data from the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey have determined that dark matter in the universe is distributed the same way as visible galaxies are.
- The 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey: The bias of galaxies and the density of the Universe
- The 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey: The amplitudes of fluctuations in the 2dFGRS and the CMB, and implications for galaxy biasing
Linda Godwin and Dan Tani start the only spacewalk of this flight at 12:24 Eastern today, which is scheduled to last 4 hours. Their main goal is to install insulation around some of the solar panel components.
In a deal with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Space Adventures has arranged for Mark Shuttleworth from South Africa to be the second space tourist on the ISS, going up in April 2002. The next two tourists may be game show winners. Image World Media and MirCorp are planning to send up the winners from Ancient Astronaut, which seems to be a Survivor-clone where participants visit the site of ancient astronaut relics and do things with tools the ancient astronauts used to use. You think I make this stuff up?
The shuttle got off the ground today. Docking is Friday afternoon. about 3p Eastern.
Space station crew members went outside today and successfully removed some debris from the hatch where Progress was docked, allowing the hatch to seal.
Space station crew members will go out Monday to remove this piece of wire blocking the Progress' docking hatch.
In a paper being developed, scientists from UCLA studying very short gamma ray bursts discuss the possibility that they are being caused by the extremely powerful explosions of microscopic primordial black holes.
In other black hole news, researchers at the University of Warwick have applied their method of studying X-rays generated by matter falling into black holes to analyzing soccer, to find that British games are 30 times more boring than games in the rest of the world.
The shuttle launch has been rescheduled for next Tuesday evening at 5:45 Eastern after Russian flight controllers, along with NASA, opted to use a spacewalk to clear an obstruction that interfered with the Progress docking Wednesday.
A team led by David Charbonneau is publishing results in The Astrophysical Journal on their detection of an atmosphere around an extrasolar planet for the first time. They used the Hubble Space Telescope to examine light from its sun filtered through the atmosphere to study its composition. Members of the team discovered the planet around the sun-like star HD 209458 using the STARE telescope in 1999. [via BBC News (story)]
Endeavour is scheduled to lift off 7:41pm Eastern this Thursday.
Steve Bennett and his company Starchaser has a successful test launch of Nova in England: a 37 foot tall rocket launched 5,000 feet up and returned safely. After one more test flight, he'll be putting a person, likely himself, on board, all in preparation for a shot at the X Prize: $10 million for the first team to fly three people 100 miles into space twice within two weeks. Some don't have a lot of faith.
The Genesis spacecraft entered orbit today around the L1 Lagrange point, where gravity is perfectly balanced between the Sun and the Earth. The goal is to return samples of solar wind particles to Earth in 2004.