|Volume: 02, Issue: 15||09/22/2004|
Genesis Scientists Bouncing Back From CrashScientists examining the sample canister of the Genesis return capsule may have reason to be optimistic. They believe it may still be possible to achieve the most important parts of the mission’s science objectives.
"We are bouncing back from a hard landing, and spirits are picking up again," said Orlando Figueroa, Deputy Associate Administrator for Programs for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Based on initial inspection, it is possible a repository of solar wind materials may have survived. These samples would keep the science community busy for some time.
"We are pleased and encouraged by the preliminary inspection," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "The outstanding design and sturdy construction of Genesis may yield the important scientific results we hoped for from the mission."
"I want to emphasize the excellent work by the navigation team to bring the capsule back exactly on target was key in our ability to recover the science," said Andrew Dantzler, Director of the Solar System Division at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "In addition, the robustness of the design of the spacecraft was the reason it could take such a hard landing and still give us a chance to recover the samples."
The mission's main priority is to measure oxygen isotopes to determine which of several theories is correct regarding the role of oxygen in the formation of the solar system. Scientists hope to determine this with isotopes collected in the four target segments of the solar wind concentrator carried by the Genesis spacecraft.
"From our initial look, we can see that two of the four concentrator segments are in place, and all four may be intact," said Dr. Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a member of the Genesis science team.
The mission's second priority is to analyze nitrogen isotopes that will help researchers understand how the atmospheres of the planets in our solar system evolved.
"These isotopes will be analyzed using gold foil, which we have also found intact," Wiens said.
Other samples of solar winds are contained on hexagonal wafers. It appears these are all or nearly all broken, but sizable pieces will be recovered, and some are still mounted in their holders.
Another type of collector material, foils contained on the canister's lid, were designed to collect other isotopes in the solar wind. It appears approximately three-fourths of these are recoverable, according to Dr. Dave Lindstrom, Mission Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters. However, these foils have been exposed to elements of the Utah desert.
The Genesis sample return capsule landed well within the projected ellipse path in the Utah Test and Training Range on Sept. 8, but its parachutes did not open. It impacted the ground at nearly 200 mph.
NASA's Associate Administrator for Science Al Diaz has appointed Dr. Michael Ryschkewitsch, Director of the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, Md., to lead a Genesis Mishap Investigation Board (MIB). The MIB will gather information; analyze the facts; identify the proximate cause(s), root cause(s), and contributing factors relating to the Genesis mission; and recommend appropriate actions to prevent a future similar mishap. The Board's investigation report is due to NASA Headquarters in mid-November.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Genesis mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and operated the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
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