NASA, SETI Use Airship to Hunt Meteorites From Big Fireball
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 04 May 2012 Time: 06:09 PM ET
|NASA researchers Alan Ehrgott, Mike Koop, and Derek Sears
wait to board the zeppelin Eureka for a meteorite hunt on May 3, 2012.
In what must be a meteorite-hunting first, a team of scientists took a zeppelin out Thursday (May 3) to search for fragments from a rare daytime fireball that exploded over California last month.
The huge airship Eureka took off from McClellan Park airfield in Sacramento around 12:45 p.m. PDT (3:45 p.m. EDT; 1945 GMT) carrying six researchers from NASA and the Search for Extreterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute.
As the zeppelin cruised over the foothills of California's Sierra Nevada mountains at an altitude of about 1,000 feet (300 meters), the scientists scanned the ground for any signs of recent impact craters. Their aim: to find fragments of the minivan-size space rock that slammed into Earth's atmosphere on April 22.
Researchers are eager to get their hands on these meteorites, because they think the parent asteroid was a rare and primitive type called a carbonaceous chondrite. Such space rocks are typically packed full of organic molecules — carbon-based compounds that are the building blocks of life as we know it.
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