Where did we come from? Is there life in the interstellar void? Are there beings that travel the “crystal halls” of God’s mansion beyond our solar system? Was life brought here in drops of water by comets as ancient myths indicate? Are we really made of alien stars? What forces prompted the universe to form the primordial cosmic particles floating in the sacred ocean into Paris Hilton?
These are not questions in a debate between evolution and Intelligent Design. These are the complicated questions asked by scientists such as Dr. Don Brownlee, an astrobiologist who, for the past 25 years, has been scouring the depths of our oceans and the loneliest deserts for some of the prized cosmic material—pristine cosmic dust—that contains the answers to our most profound questions.
Tons of space dust rain upon the earth every year. However, no one has ever before been able to study verified comet dust and interstellar particles. Once, scientists were annoyed by the way cosmic dust would get in the way when they were trying to observe other celestial objects. Now, we know this is the “stuff” of the universe.
Science has shown us that our mother Earth, the sun and even human beings are all made from regenerated stardust. The universe recycles. All the atoms in our body—calcium, oxygen, potassium—were in stardust grains before the solar system formed. Before that they were the nuclear fuel that powered a star and then fueled its supernova explosion. Now we know that cosmic rays from these stunning stellar events play our DNA like ’59 Gibson Les Paul electric guitars.
“The fundamental point is that we ultimately are made of this stuff—‘stardust’ from the interstellar medium,” said Brownlee.
Comets are believed to be relatively unchanged since the creation of our solar system nearly 5 billion years ago. Any organic matter or other raw materials would literally be preserved in a perpetual deep-freeze, meaning a comet is a library or time capsule of ancient data, an ancient ‘hall of records’. What was needed was a spacecraft that could snag a few books.
It was Brownlee, along with Dr. Peter Tsou, who dreamed up the idea of sending a spacecraft to catch star stuff off a comet. NASA’s Project STARDUST was born with Brownlee as lead investigator. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab say the cosmic project will open a window to the past and could produce findings that will change the way humans think about their origins. Ancient mythic notions of our beginnings hang in the balance.
Testing the Tiamat Theory
On February 7, 1999, a Delta II rocket carrying the STARDUST spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida. It was headed for a rendezvous with a stream of interstellar dust that is flowing into our solar system. The Galileo spacecraft discovered this stream in 1993 on its way to Jupiter.
The first stop was Asteroid Anne Frank, about 253 million miles away and almost in the middle of the asteroid belt, which can be found in a wide band orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. The results of this sample could provide remarkable new ammo for discussion of Zecharia Sitchin’s analysis of the Atlantis-in-the-stars Sumerian myth of Tiamat, which states that the asteroid belt, as well as the earth and moon, were created from the splitting or sinking of a planet, Tiamat, by a collision with a marauding ‘planet’, Nibiru.
On January 2, 2004 NASA expertly guided STARDUST to within 149 miles of Comet Wild-2, a daring close call by astronomical standards. During this fly-by, the craft’s tennis-racket-shaped collector was bombarded by millions of six-times-faster-than-a-speeding-bullet dust particles and small rocks that ranged in size from as small as sand to as large as fish tank pebbles.
Whoosh! Thousands of these objects were captured on-impact using an array of mosaic-style aerogel collector plates. Aerogel is an ultra-light silicon-based sponge that looks something like a surreal blue hologram of fog in a glass box. It’s called ‘liquid smoke’.
After a seven-year voyage in which the refrigerator-sized spacecraft sailed through space traveling nearly 3 billion miles, STARDUST headed home.
Three. Two. One. In the early morning hours of January 15, 2006, the STARDUST spacecraft, Brownlee’s brainchild, slammed into the atmosphere above the Western United States at a record 26,000 mph.
STARDUST was literally on fire—first bluish in color and then becoming a deep red. As it streaked across the dark Utah skies, STARDUST’s luminescent trail next painted an almost unbelievable yellowish-orange line that Brownlee said resembled a magic wand tracing across the sky. To emphasize the drama two meteors accompanied it. Me oh my, the only thing missing was Disney’s Tinkerbell!
Brownlee and other scientists bolted from their observation trailers screaming at the top of their lungs with joy and excitement. They watched with child-like wonder as the parachute opened and a UFO shaped canister floated to earth. It bounced five times before settling and leaving a perfect ring in the desert sand at the U.S. Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range, about 400 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
For thirty minutes the capsule sat awaiting retrieval. (Despite having the coordinates, infrared instruments to scan the desert floor, and on and off beacon contact with the capsule, recovery operations crewmembers had some difficulty homing in on it. Hmm.)
Men wearing orange jackets and blue jeans picked up the canister and moved it by helicopter to Michael Army Airfield (“the new Area 51”) where men and women wearing clean suits received it in a temporary clean room until it could be safely moved to a more permanent ultra clean room at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA went black with their cosmic treasure. No one was invited to witness the transfer from Utah to Texas. The route to JSC was not publicly disclosed. A cloak of secrecy was put on the cosmic library as it traveled to the same building that received the Apollo moon rocks. NASA’s magicians made it disappear.
Comets are the subjects of prophecies from the Bible to Nostradamus to Fátima. Many worry that a massive doomsday or King of Terror comet or asteroid is approaching Earth (but don’t worry, in the Hollywood version through technology we will be miraculously saved). A comet has never been intentionally brought to Earth. Comet Wild 2’s stardust could have a deep impact on a number of different planes, especially the scientific and spiritual.
Closely monitoring these events were some 150 scientists poised worldwide to grab STARDUST’s samples and analyze them in their labs. On January 17 all eyes were on a group of clean-suit-clad scientists gathered around the mosaic of smoky blue aerogel tiles in a clean room more sterile than an operating room at JSC.
It was a scene straight out of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, when primitive man encountered the giant evolution-stimulating black monolith that brings enlightenment at the “dawn of history.” (Or was it more like Moses encountering YHWH in the burning bush on smoking Sinai?)
In the blue aerogel haze scientists were ecstatic to see that thousands of tiny particles of stardust had been captured. Seeing the carrot-shaped trails, many of which were visible to the naked eye, Brownlee flashed a V for victory sign for the successful arrival of the stardust material.
The collection of particles far exceeded the original expectations of the project. This pristine cosmic dust—sacred grains from the heavens—represented literal first contact with interstellar particles from deep space.
Ka Ching. We accessed the cosmic hall of records.
“When you have the samples in hand, it’s a whole different universe,” Brownlee said during a press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His words resonate on many levels delivering an eloquent and stunning subliminal message: STARDUST represents a new dawn. We are golden.
More than a million particles larger than one micron (a millionth of a meter) in diameter is estimated to have been captured in ice-cube-sized aerogel collectors. Today, in labs across the globe the primitive, 5,000-year-old cosmological explanations for our existence, as recorded in “the holy books” (the Bible, the Torah, the Koran) meet scientific data as humankind lifts Prometheus-like tiny specks of stardust and rises to “go CSI” on God.
The stakes are high. Much of western religion is based on the ideas of creation sketched in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. As we in America contemplate legislating the religion of Intelligent Design in our classrooms, a whole flotilla of satellites and a growing garden of space telescopes aims to reveal the secrets of the universe.
Bread from Heaven
Individual stardust particles will be sliced up ‘like a loaf of bread’ for analysis, Mike Zolensky of NASA said. The metaphor stuck. Globally media outlets described how scientists at the Livermore Institute of Geophysics plan to slice the particles open like tiny loaves of bread and examine the grains under the world’s most powerful microscopes.
Bread. Grains. Broken pieces of a larger loaf. These words were music to my ears. I first heard about Stardust in 2003 in a presentation on the biblical manna given by Sir Laurence Gardner, the Holy Grail expert who had cast his eagle eyes toward the STARDUST mission. He pondered the connection between the interstellar dust collected by STARDUST with the exotic fine white super powder featured in the ancient tales of manna, the so-called bread from heaven of the Bible.
Pulling on Gardner’s golden thread, we find that manna is an ethereal substance from the stars, described in Exodus 16:31 as bread, small, round, white and sweet, which sustained life. Manifesting in the morning along with dew it dove out of the Milky Way at night and turned to a crystalline form on Earth in the morning.
In the Egyptian Papyrus of Ani, manna is referred to as What is this? or “what is it”? Funny, that’s exactly what NASA scientists are asking about stardust. “What is it?”
STARDUST’s resonance with ancient manna myths is mythic, epic, even biblical. When I asked Dr. Brownlee about this dimension of the mission in a “Dreamland” interview he responded by saying he thought it was highly significant that we had to go get this stuff. It wasn’t going to come to us.
Indeed, our species had to rise to our present level of technology in order to retrieve these secrets.
Our universe works in mysterious ways. The Egyptian glyph for ‘bread’ is a conical shape with a wedge in the middle. It often appears on the walls of Egyptian temples beside the key of life symbol. Coincidentally, NASA provided a ‘keystone cut’ (their term) of a particle track in aerogel that almost perfectly matches the Egyptian glyph in shape, symbolism and in meaning.
Early STARDUST reports show tantalizing hints of organic compounds, providing encouraging hints that comets delivered key ingredients for the development of life on Earth. This is another powerful match between stardust and the ancient beliefs concerning manna (which sustained life).
The Greeks called manna “golden rain” and associated its appearance with Pallas-Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Manna in Greek means “mother.”
In Earth Under Fire, Dr. Paul LaViolette proposes that Zeus signifies the Milky Way’s Galactic core. Athena, who springs from Zeus’ head, he says, signifies the outburst of cosmic rays violently emitted from the Galactic center during a starburst event. Dust detectors on the Ulysses and Galileo spacecraft have detected interstellar dust streaming into the solar system, possibly from the direction of the galactic center, suggesting a possible origin of the dust collected by STARDUST.
As noted, the word manna is commonly taken as derived from man, an expression of surprise, “What is it?” but alternatively it is derived from manan, meaning “to allot,” and hence denoting an “allotment” or a “gift.” This “gift” from God is described as “a small round thing.” Similarly, STARDUST’s cosmic particles represent a gift from the galaxy, an anointing. It remains to be seen what we do with this cosmic treasure.
It is quite fascinating, from a mythological perspective, to see how history appears to repeat itself and recycles names and ideas. NASA’s names and acronyms bear an interesting observation.
Two thousand years ago a research group calling themselves Nasara or Nasarenes were led by a rebel prophet and visionary known by various names Yeshua—Yehoshua, Jeshu, Jesus. The Koran calls him Issa or Isa. Jesus refers to the manna as the “true bread from heaven.” This bread of God, he says, “came down from heaven” and “gives life unto the world” (John 6:33). Jesus also prophesied the appearance of manna and a white stone containing a “new name” at the “end of time” (Revelation 2:17).
This prophecy and the vibration of the proper names raise an interesting anomaly. The Nasara research group is obviously resonant with NASA. Issa resonates with ISS (International Space Station), the research vessel in Earth’s orbit.
Some of the most important information the STARDUST samples contain will be at the atomic scale. Livermore Lab is using a newly designed, one-of-a-kind electron microscope that will allow atomic scale analyses of the particles’ composition. The microscope, known as Superstem, holds the world’s record for the highest energy resolution for an electron microscope and can magnify images well over a million times.
The initial work on the samples shows they contain glassy materials, crystals like olivine and various trace elements, Brownlee said. Interestingly, Revelation says the throne of God is made of crystal.
Assuredly, as we break stardust’s seals new names for these pieces of the bread or flesh of God will appear. God will say with a voice of thunder, “Come.” The prophecy of Revelation will be fulfilled. Yep. It’s a stretch, real poetry. But the underlying harmonic is real.
“Love is now the stardust of yesterday, the music of the years gone” wrote Hoagy Carmichael in the pop standard “Stardust.” Some critics have called “Stardust” the finest love song ever written. It was one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century. STARDUST will certainly give new insight into the specks of a mysterious glassy jewel covered in the dust of our daily lives.
Most of STARDUST’s collection will be stored for future generations to study. When our lives are over and we have turned to dust, STARDUST, one of the greatest human achievements, will continue to sing.