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), informs Reuters.
According to CNN, &to=http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/378/12181_.html' target=_blank>NASA engineers were still looking into the cause of the crash.
Recovery teams found that the explosive charges on &to=http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/377/9898_bible.html' target=_blank>Genesis did not fire indicating why the parachutes had not deployed. NASA said a command-and-control problem was to blame because none of the charges were tripped by electronic command.
"The message did not arrive at the device meant to deploy the chute," said Gentry Lee, chief engineer of planetary systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Anything beyond that is speculation."
Yet we now know the light that provided this precious sustenance has taken a very long time to reach us. The sunbeams that shine on us today began their journey before the last ice age and needed hundreds of thousands of years to push their way through the maelstrom of activity below the sun's surface.
"It is incredibly hot and dense down there," said Professor Richard Harrison, of the Rutherford Laboratory. "Light is generated by particles and is then absorbed and re-emitted by other particles. The process goes on for aeons before light can reach the surface." After that, it is a mere eight-minute skip across the 93-million mile gap to the Earth.