Spectroscopy from Rosetta has identified the make-up of a single dust grain captured by the spacecraft.
For the convenience of communications the science team had dubbed this single grain “Boris.”
[T]hese first results show that among the grain’s components are magnesium and sodium. Since 95 percent of the known observed minerals in comets resemble olivine and pyroxenes – containing a lot of magnesium – the detection of this element is not a big surprise. But, finding sodium in the dust grain, in a refractory mineral phase, has sparked our interest considerably.
The coma and tails of other comets are already known to contain sodium; it was observed in the dust samples returned from Comet Wild 2 by NASA’s Stardust mission, and a prominent example was also the sodium tail of Comet Hale-Bopp that flew past the Sun in April 1997 and which could be seen in the night sky for many weeks. However, by contrast, neither sodium nor magnesium were observed in Comet 67P/C-G dust grains before sampling the inner coma dust. But our dust grain Boris has showed off with clear sodium and magnesium mass peaks in the secondary ion mass spectra that we obtained.
Their next goal is to identify where on the surface of Comet 67P/C-G this sodium came from.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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