The Genesis solar wind sample return mission: Past, present, and future



The Genesis Discovery mission returned solar matter in the form of the solar wind with the goal of obtaining precise solar isotopic abundances (for the first time) and greatly improved elemental abundances. Measurements of the light noble gases in regime samples demonstrate that isotopes are fractionated in the solar wind relative to the solar photosphere. Theory is required for correction. Measurement of the solar wind O and N isotopes shows that these are very different from any inner solar system materials. The solar O isotopic composition is consistent with photochemical self-shielding. For unknown reasons, the solar N isotopic composition is much lighter than essentially all other known solar system materials, except the atmosphere of Jupiter. Ne depth profiling on Genesis materials has demonstrated that Ne isotopic variations in lunar samples are due to isotopic fractionation during implantation without appealing to higher energy solar particles. Genesis provides a precise measurement of the isotopic differences of Ar between the solar wind and the terrestrial atmosphere. The Genesis isotopic compositions of Kr and Xe agree with data from lunar ilmenite separates, showing that lunar processes have not affected the ilmenite data and that solar wind composition has not changed on 100 Ma time scales. Relative to Genesis solar wind, ArKrXe in Q (the chondrite noble gas carrier) and the terrestrial atmosphere show relatively large light isotope depletions.