Genesis capsule yields solar wind samples



NASA's Genesis capsule, carrying the first samples ever returned from beyond the Moon, took a hard landing in the western Utah desert on 8 September after its parachutes failed to deploy Despite the impact, estimated at 310 km per hour, some valuable solar wind collector materials have been recovered. With these samples, the Genesis team members are hopeful that nearly all of the primary science goals may be met.

The Genesis spacecraft was launched in August 2001 to collect and return samples of solar wind for precise isotopic and elemental analysis. The spacecraft orbited the Earth-Sun Lagrangian point (LI), ˜1.5 million km sunward of Earth, for 2.3 years. It exposed ultrapure materials—including wafers of silicon, silicon carbide, germanium, chemically deposited diamond, gold, aluminum, and metallic glass— to solar wind ions, which become embedded within the substrates' top 100 nm of these materials.