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This is an artist's rendition of the Genesis spacecraft.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

In the Beginning...
News story originally written on July 18, 2001

On July 30, 2001, NASA is set to launch the next of its robotic space missions: The Genesis mission. After launching on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, the Genesis spacecraft will travel toward the Sun and assume an orbit around L1, a position in space where the gravitational pulls from the Earth and Sun are balanced.

Once in position, the Genesis craft will open collector arrays and begin to capture particles that make up the solar wind. These particles are tiny, charged bits of matter than have been expelled by the Sun. In April, 2004, after almost three years of collecting material, the spacecraft will return to Earth. The collected solar material will be recovered in a dramatic, mid-air helicopter capture, so that the impact of landing does not damage the samples. The Genesis mission will be the first mission to collect and return material from beyond the orbit of the Moon.

Studying these particles should help answer fundamental questions about the exact composition of the Sun and about the birth of our solar system. The mission should provide enough material to last for decades of research, which means that further studies of the Sun and its composition will also be possible.


Last modified July 18, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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