The object visible in the archived photo, recalled Sunday by the US space agency NASA, is the capsule of the Genesis space probe. Which, scientists say, should never have broken in the sandy soil of Utah. It just went wrong.
The mission of Genesis began on August 8, 2001. Then, from Cape Canaveral, a rocket took off, carrying an unmanned probe into space. His task was to collect samples of matter from the solar wind and return to Earth.
The researchers hoped that, thanks to the data collected from particles that flowed from the Sun's crown, they could more accurately determine the composition of our star. In addition, they wanted to learn more about the subject that created the solar system and all its planets.
In order to provide samples to Earth, the Genesis probe was equipped with a return capsule. There were containers of material collected during the two-year orbital siege of Lagrange L1 – one of the places in space where the gravity of the Earth and the Sun is balanced.
The probe was equipped with a set of "traps" to capture samples. – Materials used in Genesis collectors had to be strong enough that the devices could start without interruption, stop heated samples during collection, and maintain enough purity to immediately analyze solar wind components – on September 3, 2004 , explained Amy Jurewicz. in the Genesis project.
She could not foresee that five days later, a portion of the capsule, along with valuable containers, would hit Earth in Utah at a speed of 310 miles per hour.
Sensors Installed Incorrectly
It was supposed to be completely different. On the way back to Earth, less than 127 seconds after entering the atmosphere, he should release the first parachute, which should decelerate and stabilize the flight of the probe. Then the main parachute should open, providing the capsule with a gentle descent on the test ground in Utah.
In the photo published by NASA you can see helicopters. They watched closely to catch the capsule in the air and deliver it directly to sterile laboratory rooms to avoid contaminating the samples.
Unfortunately, the probe fell at a great speed, because none of the parachutes opened.
After a thorough examination of the remains of the object, it was assumed that the error resulted from incorrect sensor installation, no more than the tip of an automatic pencil. They should follow the growing overhead and cause the parachutes to open up over time. They did not work.
The heavily damaged remains of the probe were sunk in the desert sand. The valuable cargo was mixed and contaminated.
"We answered some important questions"
However, you can not talk about the complete failure of the Genesis mission. Some samples survived, they could be tested. Within a few years, a series of scientific articles describing the discoveries made through the Genesis mission was published.
"The sun contains more than 99 percent of the material in our solar system, so it was good to get to know them better," said Don Burnett of the California Institute of Technology in 2011, principal investigator for the Genesis mission.
He admitted that the venture was much harder than expected. He assured, however, that while it did not end in line with expectations, it allowed more questions to be answered than many of the missions successfully completed.