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Friday, August 20, 2004

Stellar science comes home...

A space project called Genesis, stuntmen, and a hand-operated skyhook...what could possibly go wrong?

Sounds like a tag line for a bad S/F movie (or a slightly lower-than-average Traveller2000 game scenario), doesn't it? Fear not (it's all true):
A capsule filled with stardust will be dropped into the atmosphere from NASA's Genesis spacecraft on 8 September.

Genesis has collected charged particles from the Sun's outermost layer for about 27 months since its launch in 2001. Scientists believe its quarry will reveal the chemical composition of the cloud from which the Sun and planets condensed 4.5 billion years ago.
...NASA hired two professional helicopter stunt pilots to capture the 190-kilogramme sample return capsule as it parachutes into the sky above the US Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.
At an altitude of 2750 m, the lead crew will try to snag the chute's fabric with a hooked pole 5.6 metres long. If successful, the capsule's weight will trigger a piston that secures the parafoil to the hook, and the pilot will pitch the helicopter's nose upward to prevent the parafoil from reinflating.
Good luck to them...