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Stardust Equations

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Author:Keith Devlin (Devlin's Angle)
Description: On Sunday, February 7, at 4:04 PM, a Lockheed Martin Delta II rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral carrying an unmanned spacecraft about the size of an office desk, having the romantic name of Stardust. If all goes well, on January 15, 2006, the spacecraft will return to Earth and release into the atmosphere a small capsule, measuring 30 inches across and 20 inches deep, which will parachute down onto the salt flats in the Utah desert, landing at 3:00 AM... During its seven year journey, Stardust will travel some 3.1 billion miles through the solar system at an average speed of 48,000 miles per hour... a voyage of 3 billion miles culminating in the return to Earth at a specific location, at a specific time on a specific day seven years later, is a powerful reminder of the predictive power of mathematics. As much as being a triumph for engineering, a mission such as Stardust is a significant mathematical feat...

Levels: High School (9-12), College, Research
Languages: English
Resource Types: Articles
Math Topics: Chaos, Conic Sections and Circles, Engineering, Astronomy

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