Tue, Sep 14, 2004
Scientists May Be Able To Retrieve Vital Particles From
Genesis might just be saved.
That's the word from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena (CA).
The $246 million mission ended with a thud last week when its
parachute failed to deploy. The refrigerator-sized saucer, designed
to capture untainted solar particles as they streamed from the sun,
ended up in a smoking crater in the Utah desert.
The solar particles were collected on the faces of thin, exotic
wafers inside the capsule. Some of those wafers shattered on
impact. Others were ejected. But the Christian Science Monitor
reports scientists, using a flashlight and a mirror taped to the
end of a stick have found that many actually survived the 193 mph
"The science team is really excited," Roger Wiens, one of the
project's lead scientists, told the Monitor. "We should be able to
meet many, if not all, of our primary science goals."
That big sigh of relief you just heard came from NASA
Backers of the Genesis project didn't think it possible -- but
they decided to try a salvage operation anyway.
"I was concerned about prolonged exposure of these in the soil,"
said principle investigator Donald Burnett. "So I got the job of
picking them out. It's rather therapeutic."
The trick, however, will be to decontaminate the wafers and
their fragments, to sort out contamination from Earth's atmosphere
and isolate the solar particles scientists believe hold the key to
understanding more about our origins.
"We may appeal to people in the semiconductor industry who have
talents and procedures" for such decontamination efforts, Burnett
told the Monitor.
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