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02-12-1999

Clarkson Grad From Potsdam Develops Material To Catch Comet Dust On Spacecraft Launched Sunday

A Clarkson University graduate from Potsdam has developed the material, which will capture comet dust on the Stardust spacecraft, launched at Cape Canaveral on Sunday. Dr. Steven M. Jones, a staff scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, developed and made the aerogel material which will capture dust from the tail of Comet Wild (pronounced Vilt) in January 2004.

Although Jones works at JPL, he and his family maintain their residence in the North Country. His wife Jane teaches fourth grade at Lawrence Avenue Elementary School, and his children, Joshua and Katie, are students at Potsdam Central High School.

Jones received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Clarkson in 1994, after earning his bachelor's in physics from Clarkson, his bachelor's in chemistry at SUNY Potsdam and his master's in chemistry at Clarkson.

Jones studied for his Ph.D. with Clarkson Chemistry Professor and Chair Stig Friberg. Jones' doctoral dissertation was in sol-gel chemistry, that is making glassy-like materials out of chemicals. He then did his post-doctoral work for a year and a half with Senior University Professor Richard E. Partch in Clarkson's Center for Advanced Materials Processing.

I was hired as the Stardust aerogel development lead, says Jones. "Someone here had made the aerogel. It was my job to make it better, improve it, and get it into a form to be used for the actual project."

Jones says that the primary Stardust mission is to capture cometary material. "As the spacecraft encounters the comet, small particles given off will be imbedded in the aerogel. When the spacecraft returns in 2006, the capsule with the aerogel tray will be jettisoned and recovered. Then scientists will study the particles."

The interesting thing about this and other comets is that they are material from the early solar system, says Jones. "Moons and planets have undergone changes, but the material of the comet is very much like the material from which the solar system evolved."

Editors and news directors: Dr. Steven Jones is available for interviews at 818-354-7805 or by e-mail at Steven.M.Jones@jpl.nasa.gov . You may also contact Clarkson Professor Richard Partch at 315-268-2351, or at home at 315-265-7324.

You can also check out the following Web links:

http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/

http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/magazine/articles/0,3266,19560,00.html

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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