Press Release

NASA Genesis Spacecraft Closes Collector Arrays

By SpaceRef Editor
April 6, 2004
Filed under , ,
NASA Genesis Spacecraft Closes Collector Arrays

Since October 2001 NASA’s Genesis spacecraft has exposed specially
designed collector arrays of sapphire, silicon, gold and diamond to
the Sun’s solar wind.

That collection of pristine particles of the Sun came to an end last
week, when NASA’s Genesis team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif., ordered the spacecraft’s collectors deactivated and
stowed. The closeout process was completed when Genesis closed and
sealed the spacecraft’s sample-return capsule.

“This is a momentous step,” said Genesis project manager Don Sweetnam.
“We have concluded the solar-wind collection phase of the mission. Now
we are focusing on returning to Earth, this September, NASA’s first
samples from space since Apollo
17 back in December 1972.”

NASA’s Genesis mission was launched in August 2001 from the Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Three months and about one million
miles later, the spacecraft began to amass solar wind particles on
hexagonal wafer-shaped collectors made of pure silicon, gold, sapphire
and diamond.

“The material our collector arrays are made of may sound exotic, but
what is really unique about Genesis is what we collected on them,”
said mission principal investigator Don Burnett. “With Genesis we’ve
had almost 27 months far beyond the Moon’s orbit collecting atoms from
the Sun. With data from this mission, we should be able to say what
the sun is composed of at a level of precision for planetary science
purposes that has never been seen before.”

To get Genesis’ precious cargo into the sterilized-gloved hands of
Burnett and solar scientists around the world is an exotic endeavor in

Later this month, Genesis will execute the first in a series of
trajectory maneuvers that will place the spacecraft on a route toward
Earth. On Sept. 8, 2004, the spacecraft will
dispatch a sample-return capsule containing its solar booty. The
capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere for a planned landing at the
U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range at about 9:15 a.m. EDT.

To preserve the delicate particles of the Sun in their prisons of
gold, sapphire and diamond, specially trained helicopter pilots will
snag the return capsule from mid-air
using giant hooks. The flight crews for the two helicopters assigned
for the capture and return of Genesis are former military aviators,
Hollywood stunt pilots and an active-duty
Air Force test pilot.

SpaceRef staff editor.