Begins Sample Collection
officially opened for business today, extending its special
collector arrays to catch atoms from the solar wind. The atoms
it collects, believed to have been part of the solar nebula
"cloud" from which our solar system developed, will help scientists
gain a better understanding of the conditions in the distant
past before the Earth and other planets formed.
is NASA's first sample return mission since the last Apollo
mission in 1972, and the first ever to return material collected
beyond the Moon.
is in orbit around L1, a point in space about 1 million miles
from Earth in the direction of the Sun, where the gravities
of Earth and the Sun balance. The spacecraft first opened
its outer shell, then its inner science canister to reveal
collector arrays. Today, the arrays fanned out like petals
to catch heavier atoms of the solar wind.
expect to start getting particle hits right away," said Dr.
Donald Burnett, Genesis principal investigator, of the California
Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "Now we've gotten to the
real focus of the mission: the start of science, leading to
the return in 2004 and the analysis phase of the mission."
returned particles will be preserved in a special laboratory
at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, for study by scientists
over the next century. It will help them answer fundamental
questions about the exact composition of our star and the
birth of our solar system.
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