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Flight Plans Newsletter

Catching a Comet with NASA Astronomer Dr. Don Brownlee: UW professor talks about managing NASA's historic mission to a comet

Date: 
01/24/2009

SEATTLE, Jan. 14, 2009--University of Washington astronomy professor Dr. Don Brownlee was the chief scientist on NASA's epic mission to catch a comet and return some of it to Earth. On Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. Brownlee will be at The Museum of Flight to share the details of this exciting mission--Stardust Discovery Mission--and what it has shown us about the formation of our Solar System. The program is free with admission to the Museum.

Brownlee is a leading authority on comets and interplanetary dust. The UW professor is so well regarded in the world of astronomy that an asteroid has been named in his honor--Asteroid 3259 Brownlee--and the first mineral discovered in comet dust is officially called Brownleeite. Dr. Brownlee has received numerous awards and honors including the J. Lawrence Smith medal from the National Academy of Sciences, the Leonard medal from the Meteoritical Society, and the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Dr. Brownlee was elected a Fellow of both the Meteoritical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

NASA's 7-year Stardust mission was the first U.S. space mission dedicated solely to the exploration of a comet. On Jan. 2, 2004, NASA's Stardust spacecraft flew through the coma of Comet Wild 2 and collected approximately 1 million bits of dust from the comet. Two years later it flew back past Earth and dropped a capsule of comet dust samples that landed on the Utah desert. These are the first extraterrestrial samples returned to Earth since the 1970s and the first from beyond the Moon. This little comet dust bin has revolutionized our understanding of these cosmic building blocks.

This is the first in a series of events at The Museum of Flight celebrating International Year of Astronomy 2009


  For more info on the International Year of Astronomy: http://astronomy2009.us/
 
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The non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest independent air and space museums in the world. The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air and spacecraft, as well as the Red Barn®--the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Co. The Museum's aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. More than 140,000 students are served annually by the Museum's on-site and outreach educational programs - the most extensive museum-based youth aviation and space education program in the country. The Museum is the only aviation and space museum in Washington State that is both nationally accredited with the American Association of Museums and a Smithsonian affiliate.


The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5. The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, $7.50 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit www.museumofflight.org