Wait, they found what on a comet!?
On January the 2nd 2004, a NASA probe named Stardust, 240,000,000 miles from Earth, made a fly by of the Comet Wild 2, dipping into its geyser-like jets of ice particles and collecting a sample. The subsequent analysis of the samples startled and thrilled Astrobiologists, altered our model of planetary formation and evolution, and sobered and arrested the rest of the thinking world.
Although the mission went off without a hitch, this was no easy feat. Stardust first had to first align itself with the comet, which was seen to be flying through space at 60,000 mph, and, then, it had to make a dive through through the clouds of dust, nearing the icy center. Having completed this, it then had to endure the heavy bombardment of icy material inflicted on it by geysers shooting up at supersonic velocities (almost 14,000 miles per hour, roughly 6x the speed of a speeding bullet). Surviving this intact, it flew through the clouds of material and ‘scooped’ up samples with its “flypaper-like” aerogel collection grid, returning home on January 15th, 2006. With this being the first time a comet’s interior had been sampled in its natural habitat, scientists the world over waited in anticipation as to what the samples contained. After three years of analysis the team studying the samples made an disturbing but remarkable discovery, in the dust from the comet, traces of an amino acid called glycine were found.
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