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Thread: NASA's Genesis mission

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    Post NASA's Genesis mission

    Genesis mission website
    On Sept. 8, NASA's Genesis mission is returning to Earth, bearing samples of the Sun. In a well-rehearsed midair maneuver, a helicopter will hook the spacecraft's return capsule and bring it gently and safely to the ground. The capsule's contents of solar wind may help scientists understand the origins of our solar system. The event, which takes place in the skies over Utah, will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the Internet.

    Programming begins 9:00 a.m. MDT (3:00 p.m. GMT)
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    Post Re: NASA's Genesis mission

    Rocket scientists take their best guesses on Genesis
    By JIM ERICKSON
    Scripps Howard News Service
    September 06, 2004

    WATERTON CANYON, Colo. - Lockheed Martin engineers are betting - literally ponying up $5 each in a company pool - that they'll hit the bull's-eye Wednesday morning when they guide NASA's Genesis spacecraft back to Earth.

    Genesis has spent the last three years in space and is due to pop its parachute over the Utah Test & Training Range, southwest of Salt Lake City, on Wednesday morning.

    Sealed inside the Genesis return capsule are microscopic bits of the sun's surface that should help scientists unlock some of the mysteries of our solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago.

    Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the probe and controls it from Waterton Canyon. The Colorado flight team is working with California-based NASA navigators to bring Genesis home.

    The $264 million sun-snatching mission marks the space agency's first sample-return mission since the last Apollo lunar landing in 1972.

    The re-entry will culminate in a dramatic midair capture at 10:15 a.m.: Hollywood stunt pilots will attempt to snag the Genesis parachute with a giant hook before the capsule hits the ground.

    But before that can happen, the flight team and the navigators must deliver the capsule to an oval landing zone, roughly 30 miles by 16 miles, known as the landing ellipse.

    "I think we'll nail it," said Larry Ellis, the Genesis spacecraft engineer for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "Everybody's very confident that we're coming down right in the center of the ellipse."

    In the computer-filled Lockheed Martin spacecraft control room, a map of the Utah bombing and gunnery range is taped to a wall.

    An oval on the map marks the landing ellipse. In the center of the oval, more than a dozen pool participants have pinned thumbnail-size paper triangles.

    Each silver scrap represents the 480-pound, blunt-nosed Genesis return capsule. Each is inscribed with a longitude and latitude.

    The closest guess wins the pool.

    Genesis engineers say there is a 99.7 percent probability that the return capsule will come down somewhere within the landing ellipse.

    "We hope it comes in right on the spot and that we make it look easy," said Kenny Starnes, Genesis spacecraft team chief at Lockheed Martin.

    The team must accomplish a feat known to spaceflight navigators as hitting the keyhole in the sky.

    They must deliver the streaking capsule to an oval-shaped spot - the keyhole - at the top of the atmosphere, over Oregon.

    The keyhole is 20.5 miles long and 6.2 miles wide. If the capsule enters the atmosphere anywhere inside that oval, it will come down over the target site on the Utah range.

    But there's a catch.

    The capsule has to enter the keyhole at just the right angle.

    If the entry angle is too shallow, the capsule will bounce off the top of the atmosphere like a stone skipping off a pond.

    If the entry angle is too steep, the capsule will burn up.

    The required angle is 8 degrees above horizontal. And there's little room for error, said Joe Vellinga, Lockheed Martin's program manager for Genesis.

    "The angle has to be controlled to better than a tenth of a degree," Vellinga said. "It has to be hit very accurately."

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    Post Genesis space probe crashes to Earth


    Parachute fails on capsule holding solar particlesMSNBC staff and news service reports

    Updated: 12:08 p.m. ET Sept. 8, 2004DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah - A space capsule holding atoms collected from solar wind fell to a crash landing on Earth Wednesday after its parachute failed.

    A pair of helicopters helmed by stunt pilots had been ready to help snatch the refrigerator-sized capsule’s parachute with a hook during its descent. But there was no sign that the parachute opened, and video from the scene showed the 400-pound capsule sitting on the ground at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

    It was not yet clear whether the $260 million mission was ruined.

    Choreographed return to Earth
    Genesis had been moving in tandem with Earth outside its magnetic shield on three orbits of the sun. It was to pick up speed rapidly as Earth’s gravitational pull brings it closer before the atmosphere abruptly slows the descent.

    That’s when the helicopters were supposed to over.

    Both Cliff Fleming, the lead helicopter pilot, and backup pilot Dan Rudert replicated the retrieval in dozens of practice runs. But because they never had a chance to capture the capsule, the fragile disks holding the atoms could be shattered.

    Drive to Houston
    The capsule will be packed up and driven with a convoy of armed guards to Houston’s Johnson Space Center in a truck. If the package survived, the solar particles — a storehouse of 99 percent of all the material in our solar system — would be parceled out for analysis to the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Chicago’s Argonne National Lab.

    The Genesis mission, launched in 2001, marked the first time NASA has collected and returned any objects from farther than the moon, said Roy Haggard, Genesis’ flight operations chief and chief executive officer of Vertigo Inc., which designed the capture system.

    Together, the charged atoms captured over 884 days on the capsule’s disks of gold, sapphire, diamond and silicone are no bigger than a few grains of salt, but scientists say that would be enough to reconstruct the chemical origin of the sun and its family of planets.

    Source
    Last edited by Newgrange; Wednesday, September 8th, 2004 at 06:53 PM.

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