Nice Catch – NOT

This sounded promising.

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah (AP) – A space capsule holding atoms collected from solar wind was en route to a tricky rendezvous with Earth, offering scientists the first material NASA has brought back from space in nearly three decades.

A pair of helicopters helmed by stunt pilots were set to hover nearly a mile above the Utah desert, ready to help snatch the refrigerator-sized capsule’s parachute with a hook as it floats down at 400 feet a minute, or more than 6 feet per second.

“All systems are go,” Don Sevilla, Genesis payload recovery leader, said Tuesday when the capsule was 134,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. If all goes as planned, the mid-air capture was to take place Wednesday.

The capsule’s charged atoms – a “billion billion” of them – should reveal clues about the origin and evolution of our solar system, said Don Burnett, Genesis principal investigator and a nuclear geochemist at California Institute of Technology.

“We have for years wanted to know the composition of the sun,” Burnett said. “In some cases we will be analyzing it one atom at a time.”
So how did it all turn out? Not good. Not good at all…

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The return capsule from NASA's Genesis spacecraft mission is seen after it crashed into the earth in the Utah desert when its parachute failed to open, September 8, 2004 in this image from NASA video. The space capsule, returning solar particles to Earth after a three-year mission that probed the origins of the solar system, crashed in the Utah desert before it could be captured in a mid-air recovery, officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on Wednesday. The silver, disc-shaped capsule containing 'star dust' was jettisoned as planned by the Genesis spacecraft but its parachute failed to deploy and the capsule spun out of control and crashed. It was not immediately known if the container carrying the solar material inside the capsule survived the impact. NO SALES REUTERS/NASA/Handout
Genesis Space Capsule Crashes Into Desert

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  1. Frank Martin September 8, 2004
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