The Stardust sample container has been shipped to Johnson Space Center. When they cracked it open to look at the samples, they got a nice surprise.
"It exceeds all expectations," said Donald Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomy professor who is principal investigator, or lead scientist, for Stardust. "It's a huge success. We can see lots of impacts. There are big ones, there are small ones."
Yay! It's nice to know such a bold mission was a success. Brownlee estimates there may be more than a million particles trapped in the aerogel, which will yield a scientific bonanza about comets.
Incidentally, well over 60,000 people have signed up for studying the images of the aerogel through the Stardust@Home project.
I just found out I'll be giving a talk near Johnson in March (see the blog sidebar), and I wonder if I can wrangle a little trip to see the clean room where these guys will be stored...? That would be very, very cool, and only karmic since I missed the re-entry.