Spotlight: Genesis Failure Focuses On Parachute

By | September 13, 2004 | Feature

South Windsor, Conn.-based Pioneer Aerospace Corporation, the modest-sized company that provided the parachute and the corresponding pyrotechnic device intended to safely cushion the dissent of the costly Genesis scientific satellite, expressed “devastation” following the apparent failure of the company’s equipment last week that likely will compromise the value of the scientific findings from the $264 million mission. An official investigation is underway by NASA about what caused the mishap.

That mission, intended to provide information about the solar system’s origin, ended disastrously as the satellite’s parachute did not deploy as planned and the spacecraft crashed to the ground in Utah. The science canister from the Genesis mission was moved into the clean room at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah early Wednesday evening.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Genesis mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver developed and operated the spacecraft.

First, a team of specialists plucked pieces of dirt and mud that had lodged in the canister after the mission’s sample return capsule landed at high speed in the Utah desert. Then the Genesis team began examining the contents of the canister last Thursday morning, NASA officials said.

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe said that despite the hard impact landing of the Genesis Sample Return capsule, the spacecraft was designed in a way to salvage the valuable science payload if a crash occurred.

“Genesis was an experiment to journey far from home and return with new clues and possible answers to some of the fundamental questions regarding the origin of our universe,” O’Keefe said in a statement. “With each new mission, we push the frontiers of our knowledge and technology, and we’re hopeful that what appears to be a setback, will eventually return some impressive results. After all, this isn’t an Olympic event where we’re awarded a medal for a perfect landing. Our final achievement will be measured by what we’ve learned over the entire three-year mission.”

(John Whittles, Pioneer Aerospace 860/528-0092 x218)

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