Trajectory Maneuver Brings Genesis Closer to Home
Thirty days before its historic return to Earth with NASA's first samples from space since the Apollo missions, the Genesis spacecraft
successfully completed its twentieth trajectory maneuver.
On August 9 at 12:00 Universal Time (5:00 a.m. PDT), Genesis fired its 90 gram thrusters for 50 minutes, changing its speed by 1.4
meters per second. The maneuver required half a kilogram of hydrazine monopropellant to complete.
A specially modified helicopter with a boom and winch underneath snags the parafoil chute attached to a model Genesis sample return capsule during tests of this unique recovery technology. The hook on the end of the boom collapses the chute,
allowing the helicopter to retrieve the capsule in mid-air. This is necessary to ensure the purity of the solar wind samples inside.
"It was a textbook maneuver," said Ed Hirst, Genesis's mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
"After sifting through all the post-burn data, I expect we will find ourselves right on the money."
The Genesis mission was launched in August of 2001 on a journey to capture samples from the Sun. The solar wind particles, collected on ultra-pure wafers of gold, sapphire, silicon and diamond, will be
returned for analysis by Earth-bound scientists. The samples will supply scientists with vital information on the composition of the Sun and will shed light on the origins of our solar system.
Helicopter flight crews, navigators and mission engineers continue to prepare for the return of the Genesis spacecraft on September 8. On that date, the sample return capsule will re-enter Earth's atmosphere for a planned mid-air capture at the U.S. Air
Force Utah Test and Training Range. To preserve the delicate particles of the Sun, specially trained helicopter pilots will snag the return capsule from mid-air. The flight crews are comprised of former military aviators and Hollywood stunt pilots.
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