Source Pravda.Ru

The $264 million mission in the Utah desert

After peering inside NASA's broken Genesis capsule with flashlights and mirrors, scientists said on Friday the craft's unexpected crash landing left solar material intact and most scientific objectives within reach. "We should be able to meet most if not all of our primary science goals," Roger Wiens, a key scientist on the project, said at a telephone news conference. "Overall, we're quite confident that we can achieve a high degree of success from a science point of view." The $264 million mission was designed to collect charged solar particles on delicate wafer-like plates and return them to Earth for examination. The wafers were believed to be so fragile that a helicopter-assisted parachute landing was planned. But the parachute failed to deploy on Wednesday, sending Genesis hurtling to Earth at 200 mph (320 kph). The crash left Genesis cracked and embedded in the Utah desert, and scientists were demoralized at first, said Don Sevilla, the lead engineer in the recovery project. But after the capsule was flown to a "clean room" at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, "We had great cause for optimism," Sevilla said. An intensive look inside the cracked capsule using flashlights and small mirrors indicated large pieces of the particle-collecting wafers were intact, Sevilla said. "We do not need to have whole pieces to do our science," he told reporters. "We do know that we have samples of everything we are trying to collect." After peering inside NASA's broken Genesis capsule with flashlights and mirrors, scientists said on Friday the craft's unexpected crash landing left solar material intact and most scientific objectives within reach. "We should be able to meet most if not all of our primary science goals," Roger Wiens, a key scientist on the project, said at a telephone news conference. "Overall, we're quite confident that we can achieve a high degree of success from a science point of view." The $264 million mission was designed to collect charged solar particles on delicate wafer-like plates and return them to Earth for examination. The wafers were believed to be so fragile that a helicopter-assisted parachute landing was planned. But the parachute failed to deploy on Wednesday, sending Genesis hurtling to Earth at 200 mph (320 kph). The crash left Genesis cracked and embedded in the Utah desert, and scientists were demoralized at first, said Don Sevilla, the lead engineer in the recovery project. But after the capsule was flown to a "clean room" at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, "We had great cause for optimism," Sevilla said. An intensive look inside the cracked capsule using flashlights and small mirrors indicated large pieces of the particle-collecting wafers were intact, Sevilla said. "We do not need to have whole pieces to do our science," he told reporters. "We do know that we have samples of everything we are trying to collect", reports Reuters. According to the Telegraph, Nasa scientists said yesterday they were confident that samples extracted from the crashed Genesis space capsule could still yield valuable information about the solar system. "We should be able to meet many, if not all, of our science goals," said Roger Wiens, a physicist at the Los Alamos national laboratory. Experts feared the worst when the probe slammed into the Utah desert at 193mph on Wednesday after its parachutes failed to open. Nasa will appoint a board to examine why the probe's parachutes did not open to allow it to be caught by Hollywood stunt pilots hovering nearby in helicopters. Launched in 2001 aboard the Genesis spacecraft, the capsule was returning to Earth with solar atoms, the first samples from space since the 1970s and the first from beyond the Moon. The impact damaged the sealed canister containing the material but Nasa said not all of the glass-like disks holding the particles had shattered. The capsule used 350 palm-sized wafers made up of sapphire, silicon and diamond to capture the solar wind during the Ј264 million (Ј190 million) mission. The solar atom particles could explain how the Sun was formed 4.5 billion years ago and what keeps it fuelled. Scientists have salvaged materials from a $US260 million probe that collected atoms from the sun but crash-landed in a Utah desert after its parachutes failed to deploy on re-entry. Genesis gathered 10 to 20 micrograms of bits of solar wind during its three-year mission, the first cosmic materials ever returned to Earth from beyond the Moon. Scientists had hoped the microscopic particles from the solar wind would help them understand how the sun and planets were formed. The capsule careered into the ground at 310 kilometres per hour, hurtling past helicopters that had planned to grab it in midair. NASA television images showed the saucer-like capsule's dramatic tumble as it twirled rapidly toward the western state's desert. The capsule struck the Earth so hard that half of it was lodged the in the ground, where it was stuck at a 10-degree angle, informs ABC News Online.

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