The Stardust spacecraft, which has
traveled 2 billion miles, was launched Feb. 7, 1999, and returned to
earth Jan. 15, 2006, when its Aerogel-embedded samples of comet and
interstellar dust will be returned to earth on a capsule designed to
safely land them in Utah.
Comets are thought to have been created before the planets, so
scientists hope analysis of the comet samples will reveal information
about the creation of our solar system.
Dr. Buettner is now a Sr. Project
Engineer at Aerospace, where he is assisting government contractors
test and improve their ground software in the Space-Based Surveillance
Division of The Aerospace Corp.
The laboratory he built at JPL was used on numerous space shuttle
flights, and on the Soviet Unionís MIR space station to capture high
and hyper-velocity dust in space. The lab also supplied Aerogel to
Sojourner, the very first robotic rover on Mars, and ultimately his
autoclave was used by STARDUST mission scientists and engineers to
make Aerogel to return for the first time in human history intact dust
samples from a Comet.
Photo from the Madras Pioneer
Here he holds a piece of the near-transparent
"Aerogel" he helped pioneer for
use at NASA.
composed of 99.8% air and is chemically similar to ordinary glass.
Being the world's lightest known solid, it weighs only three times
that of air.
Aerogel (also called 'frozen
smoke' because of its hazy blue appearance), is a truly remarkable
It starts out as a wet gel (like Jell-O), which
is dried at extremely high temperatures and pressures in an autoclave
to produce a solid material.
Because it is so porous,
Aerogel has the
ability to capture dust particles in space which are traveling six
times faster than the speed of a rifle bullet, a speed of 13,650 miles
per hour! It can also capture the particles without changing their
structure, which is ideal for the studies.
This exotic substance has many unusual
properties, such as low thermal conductivity, refractive index and
sound speed - in addition to its exceptional ability to capture fast
Dr. Doug Buettner was born in Klamath
Falls and grew up in Madras, graduating from Madras High in 1984.
After high school, he spent two years studying Astrophysics at Boston
University, after which he transferred to Oregon State and completed
his bachelors and masters degrees in Physics in í88 and Ď91. His
graduate work at Oregon State was funded in part by a NASA student
research grant where he worked with OSUís Dr. David Griffiths and NASA
Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Dr. Peter Tsou on hypervelocity
intact capture; invented at JPL by Dr. Tsou. This work led to further
research funding to support JPL and U.S. Air Force experiments to
characterize the ballistic performance of high density foams for use
in mannequins to capture shrapnel from live fire tests on F-16 fighter
There was a good article in the January 2004
Madras Pioneer newspaper about him