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Genesis Capsule Crashes; Chutes Blamed 656

Posted by timothy
from the sad-moment dept.
Cyclotron_Boy writes "The Genesis probe (reported here) has crashed to the ground, near a road in the Utah desert. The stunt chopper pilots were not to blame, though. The drogue chute didn't open on re-entry. NASA TV is covering it currently. The choppers have landed near the probe, but no word yet as to the condition of the space dust." Many readers have also pointed to CNN's coverage. Update: 09/08 16:39 GMT by J : MSNBC has more coverage and a sad photo of the half-buried capsule: "The capsule broke open on impact. It was not yet clear whether the $260 million Genesis mission was ruined."
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Genesis Capsule Crashes; Chutes Blamed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:33PM (#10190662)
    KHAAAAAN! [khaaan.com]
  • Failure timeline (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:33PM (#10190665) Homepage Journal
    Here are some relevant quotes from the Spaceflight Now play-by-play [spaceflightnow.com]. It looks like there were a number of things that could have gone wrong. Let's say it again, class... "Space Ain't Easy."

    * Starting about 1045 GMT, the spacecraft spins itself up to 10 revolutions per minute. The spinning will provide the unguided sample return capsule with additional stability during entry. The spacecraft then rotates to the proper orientation for release and spins up to 15 revolutions per minute.

    * Genesis will be stabilize with its nose down because of the location of its center of gravity, its spin rate and its aerodynamic shape.

    * About 45 seconds after entry interface, the capsule will be exposed to a deceleration force three times the force of Earth gravity, or 3 G's. This arms a timer that is started when the deceleration force passes back down through 3 G's. All of the parachute releases are initiated from this timer.

    * After one minute of atmospheric descent, the capsule should be at an altitude of 197,000 feet [...] Slightly over 10 seconds later, the capsule will be exposed to about 30 G's, the greatest deceleration it will endure during Earth entry.

    * 1554 GMT (11:54 a.m. EDT)
    The capsule has been spotted high over the planet!

    * 1557 GMT (11:57 a.m. EDT)
    The capsule appears to be tumbling!

    * 1557 GMT (11:57 a.m. EDT)
    The Genesis sample return capule is rapidly tumbling with no chute.

    * 1558 GMT (11:58 a.m. EDT)
    IMPACT! The capsule has slammed into the Utah desert after failing to deploy its chutes and parafoil.

    * 1604 GMT (12:04 p.m. EDT)
    Mission control says without the drogue chute and subsequent parafoil, the capsule would hit the ground at about 100 mph.

    * 1610 GMT (12:10 p.m. EDT)
    Recovery forces are moving toward the capsule, which has made a very spectacular crater.

    (Disclaimer: I posted this in the pre-impact discussion as well.)
    • by networkBoy (774728) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:39PM (#10190774) Homepage Journal
      A crash landing, even at the capsule's relatively slow speed of 9 mph, could ruin some of the data collected during the mission. from CNN piece

      So I suppose 100 Mph is pretty bad then eh?
      -nB
    • Re:Failure timeline (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:55PM (#10191045)
      A very likely cause is that the tumbling cause the decelleration sensor to be incorrectly oriented. The trigger for the parachute sequence is almost certainly a single-axis accelerometer, and if the capsule is not aligned properly, it will never see the proper acceleration, and this never trigger the sequence.

      There is absolutely no indication that the sequence ever started. The heat shield is still attached, and none of the recovery system covers separated before impact.

      Brett
      • Re:Failure timeline (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:16PM (#10191365) Homepage Journal
        A very likely cause is that the tumbling cause the decelleration sensor to be incorrectly oriented. The trigger for the parachute sequence is almost certainly a single-axis accelerometer, and if the capsule is not aligned properly, it will never see the proper acceleration, and thus never trigger the sequence.

        I thought it was interesting that the acceleration has to go past 3 gees to *arm* the device, then back below three gees to actually *deploy* it. Miss #1 and you don't get armed, and you leave a crater. Miss #2 and you get armed, leave a crater, *and* a little surprise for the recovery crew. Is this a new design, I wonder, or is this a tried-and-true method that's worked better than anything else so far?

        By the way, "Brett", why not go ahead and log in? It's (virtually) painless!
        • Re:Failure timeline (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          That sort of sequence is not uncommon (assuming you consider that there haven't been a lot of automated, unmanned planetary entries since the 60's). It ensures the various parts deploy based on external conditions, not on a pre-set timeline (which could be off by minutes). High G's = reentry has started, reduced G's = dynamic pressure is low enough to safely deploy the drogue. Then deploy the main based on either the tension on the drogue chute line, or time.

          Of course the time is critical - I seem to
          • Re:Failure timeline (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Afrosheen (42464) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @02:13PM (#10192180)
            Makes perfect sense, but also makes you wonder just how difficult it would have been to install an "Oh Shit" remote trigger, just in case. I mean, a 200+ million dollar project might need a little manual intervention.

            The stunt team could have hit a big red button, causing the probe's parachute to deploy, then swoop down for the capture. The whole mission seemed kinda wacky in the first place, with the helicopter and all. I wonder who sat down and decided it'd be a good idea.

            Also you have to wonder HOW the damn thing hit land to begin with. Isn't 70% of the Earth's surface covered with water? You have a 3 in 10 chance of hitting land if this is true.
            • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @02:31PM (#10192448) Homepage
              Because they aimed.

              It's not as though we just deorbit stuff and pray like hell that it lands somewhere reasonable. This is why we had ships hanging around where our early capsules landed, why the Russians could get their capsules to land in Russia, and why the Shuttle, when not exploding, lands safely at any of a few predictable locations.

              We certainly don't have a worldwide sky of helicopters, so they'd better well have aimed this thing towards the few (or one) copters they had to capture it.

              It's not that hard.

              It's only when we're not carefully controlling things -- like meteors, Skylabs and such, that they land all over the place. And even then we can make some guesses.
            • Re:Failure timeline (Score:5, Informative)

              by HokieJP (741860) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @02:37PM (#10192546)
              Well, I'm no expert, but I think re-entry creates a fair amount of EM interference. Enough to make any kind of radio control impossible.
              • Re:Failure timeline (Score:5, Informative)

                by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @04:20PM (#10193957) Journal
                Only during a very short period of time while you pass through the ionosphere. It's called an ionization blackout and is caused by hot, ionized gasses in the upper atmosphere. If you stand outside at night and see the aurora borealis... same thing, basically.

                Once you have passed into an area of denser atmopsphere, radio communication becomes possible again. The Apollo, if we use that as a guide for where parachutes would typically be deployed, deployed its chute at about 25,000 feet (about 7.6 km). The ionosphere starts at about 260,000 feet (about 80 km). Now I'm not saying that parachutes wouldn't be deployed higher for something trying to land on land, but not ten times higher....

                Just my $0.02.

        • It pretty standard (Score:5, Informative)

          by budgenator (254554) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:41PM (#10191745) Journal
          The guided missile I worked on used a S and A Safety and Arming, device not unlike what is described. The "warhead" is only armed after the missile achieves a classified amount of acceleration for a period of time. This is needed to insure that the "warhead" doesn't detonated at an unsafe distance from the launcher.
          It is preferable to have a spacecraft auger into the dirt, than have a parchute deploy on launch and possibly pulled the launch vehicle into a populated area.
      • by jafac (1449) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:34PM (#10191651) Homepage
        Note to self:
        For subsequent capsule re-entry operations, include a redundant RF-remote override for firing of pyros for chute.

        Thank God this thing was unmanned.
    • by lucabrasi999 (585141) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:03PM (#10191179) Journal
      * 1610 GMT (12:10 p.m. EDT) Recovery forces are moving toward the capsule, which has made a very spectacular crater.

      1620 GMT -- Recovery forces begin cleanup [yimg.com].

    • Re:Failure timeline (Score:4, Informative)

      by Artifex (18308) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:09PM (#10191261) Journal
      Interestingly, when I was watching this live over the internet, they appeared to go to a picture of the capsule underneath a canopy, in a very grainy b/w sequence that lasted just a few seconds, then they switched to another camera, and later said they didn't yet have visual on any chutes.

      Too bad I don't have cable, I'd have loved to have this on my Replay, to show you some caps of the sequence.

      BTW, I did catch the LAT/LON, they said it was 40 07 40 and 113 30 29, that would actually show up in China. If you say -113 instead of +113, you get a location in the Deseret Test Center. Here's a Mapquest map [mapquest.com]. They also said it was "just north of the road." Of course, they could have accidentally or deliberately been a bit off on their coordinates, but this is what they said.
    • Re:Failure timeline (Score:5, Interesting)

      by autophile (640621) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:26PM (#10191508)
      Starting about 1045 GMT, the spacecraft spins itself up to 10 revolutions per minute. The spinning will provide the unguided sample return capsule with additional stability during entry. The spacecraft then rotates to the proper orientation for release and spins up to 15 revolutions per minute.

      When I was watching the thing via the long-range camera on NASA TV, it looked to me that, even when the capsule was just a bright dot with changing luminosity, it was spinning at much higher than 15 rpm. More like 60 - 80 rpm. At that point, I figured what I'd see next...

      I'm just surprised the crater wasn't bigger, and that the impact was at only 100 mph. --Rob

      • by jerde (23294) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @02:01PM (#10192003) Journal
        it looked to me that, even when the capsule was just a bright dot with changing luminosity, it was spinning at much higher than 15 rpm. More like 60 - 80 rpm.

        If it were spinning the way it was supposed to, you wouldn't have been able to see it: it was supposed to spin neatly around its axis, for stability. (Like a flying saucer spinning)

        Instead, it lost aerodynamic stability altogether, and started tumbling randomly in all directions, which is what you saw. I think once it started tumbling, all hope was lost, since the G-forces of re-entry were jolting the insides in all different directions as it tumbled. Some of those forces might have been even higher than what it encountered on impact.

        (i.e. you don't want to be spinning in different directions as you're doing a 30-G descent) :(

        - Peter
    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:37PM (#10191702) Homepage Journal
      I wonder if this is what the martians saw when Beagle arrived?
    • by anubi (640541) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:42PM (#10191759) Journal
      RobertB: You are so right about these projects not at all being easy.

      They are at the cutting-edge of cutting-edge technology.

      I noticed one poster joking about NASA having a 0.500 batting average. You know, when you consider what kind of game NASA is playing and the complexity of the playing field, 0.500 sounds damn good to even me, and they have been doing a helluva lot better than that.

      I think you must have worked in the arena in the technical area to have had the insight on just how complex the issues are. Very few can appreciate the job JPL/NASA have done until they have been intimately involved in it. Once someone comes to term with the complexity and the unforgiving realities of natural laws governing mission success or failure, one understands why engineers and scientists cannot always be the obedient underlings the Dan Goldin types would like us to be.

      Even with our best work, we cannot guarantee success - all we can do is get the statistical weights of success more in our favor. Even with our utmost care and attention, there are still so many things that can possibly go wrong.

      Like anything else though, even if the thing we worked on failed, we still learn a helluva lot on how to do it better next time.

      To me, the greatest tragedy is when we lose one of our guys, through accident, layoff, or retirement, because that represents a total loss of all the accumulated experience of that individual. Everything else can be replaced, but the experience and knowledge gained from it is priceless.

      • Re:Failure timeline (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Illserve (56215) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @05:00PM (#10194468)
        There's a good reason people are upset.

        It's because of Apollo.

        Even without considering the technology difference between now and 1960's, this is a relative cakewalk to the miracles they performed in getting Men to and from the moon several times without a single fatality.

        And when you consider the difference in materials and instrumentation, it's an even worse comparison.

        NASA maybe be underfunded, but they are still screwing up on the things they are doing. We are beyond the point at which bringing an unmanned satellite down from orbit should be troublesome.

  • hmmmm.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Salamander (56587) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:34PM (#10190684)
    Personally, I blame the ground.
  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:34PM (#10190686) Journal
    Latest reports have a 10-foot-tall fungal-like growth expanding rapidly and resisting all fire and chemical methods of containment.

    Not.

    But it would have been interesting.
  • by the darn (624240) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:34PM (#10190689) Homepage
    Andromeda feeds on radiation!
  • by marbike (35297) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:34PM (#10190693) Homepage
    The drouge chutes failed to deploy correctly and the parafoil either sheared off or never deployed. They are concerned that the mortar used to deploy the drouge is still live, so they are treating the scene as a "Live Spacecraft".
    • When I worked as a paramedic in the Houston area, we had an injury type code in our patient report computers of "spacecraft-related injury."

      NOW I know why...
  • Whoops (Score:5, Funny)

    by Augusto (12068) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:35PM (#10190696) Homepage
    OK, so we had stun pilots training for 5 years, couldn't they dive in ala James Bond with their own parachutes, grab the capsule and use their own parachutes to slow down it's fall? I mean, if they get movie people, wouldn't it work like that in real life.

    C'mon, NASA, get creative :-)
  • by d_p (63654)
    So much for containing the specimens...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:36PM (#10190726)
    They were ticked off when we laughed at Beagle 2, so they decided to get their revenge.
  • PWN3D. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:37PM (#10190743)
    > "The choppers have landed near the probe, but no word yet as to the condition of the space dust."

    I'm not normally a betting man, but I'd wager the space dust is is just fine. The containment vessel designed to isolate the dust, however... lookin' a little shaky.

  • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:37PM (#10190749)
    Sipping my first coffee of the day, I almost spit it out when I saw "Breaking News" on CNN's site, and a picture of a man staring over a flying saucer.

    Ok, maybe it was. I definately need more sleep :)
  • Possible Cause (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:39PM (#10190772)
    According to NASA's NSSDC master catalog:

    There was some concern that the sample return capsule battery would fail, jeopardizing the re-entry. The battery was overheating, but ground tests have shown that the battery should be unaffected by the amount of heating it has endured, and should operate to deploy the parachute on reentry.

    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog? sc=2001-034A [nasa.gov]

  • Who? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by solarlux (610904) <noplasma AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:39PM (#10190784)
    I recognize that Lockheed Martin was the prime contractor on this project, but anyone know who built the parachute subsystem?
    • Re:Who? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:49PM (#10190965)
      Apparently, Vertigo. From the Genesis website [genesismission.org]:

      Vertigo is a small business that specializes in the development and rapid prototyping of advanced aeronautical and civil structures from inflatable shelters to parachute delivery systems to spacecraft deceleration systems. Vertigo will provide two mid-air retrieval, winch-based systems to mount in two Genesis retrieval helicopters. Vertigo is lead on the mid-air recovery flight operations. Helicopter crew provided by Vertigo are: Roy Haggard - Lead Director of Flight Operations Myles Elsing - Wing Director of Flight Operations Brian Johnson - Lead Payload Master Lynn Fogleman - Wing Payload Master The Vertigo Program Manager is Brook Norton.
    • Cheap Shot? (Score:3, Funny)

      by switcha (551514)
      Diebold?
  • Hold off on blame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FTL (112112) * <[eman.resarf.lien] [ta] [todhsals]> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:40PM (#10190798) Homepage
    This was an interesting mission, but not a vital one. Thre was nobody on board, there were no missions that depended on the success of this mission. NASA was right to try to keep costs down and take some small gambles on this one.

    I'd much rather NASA send up three cheaper/faster/riskier missions of which one crashes and two succeed, than send up one bullet-proof mission. So don't jump all over NASA for screwing up. If they didn't screw up now and again (on this type of mission), then they were clearly playing it too safe.

    Sounds odd, but "Well done NASA". Keep it up.

    • Re:Hold off on blame (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Performer Guy (69820) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:40PM (#10191735)
      No, let's blame.

      This mission was NOT cheap, it was infinitely expensive on the cost/benefit scale. That is NOT a good thing, it's a bloody tragedy.

      Having accountability is a good thing. How tricky is it to deploy a frikin parachute? Missions been doing this for years on all sorts of craft, I do it a dozen times on the weekend, and NASA can't get this right? I'm frustrated and annoyed. A quarter of a billion dollars down the Swanee because they can't get a frikin pyro to fire. Damned idiots, what happened to checking/testing mission critical systems?

      NASA seemse to be continuously outdoing itself these days in it's level of incompetence.
  • by Jack Comics (631233) * <jack_comics@nOsPaM.postxs.org> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:40PM (#10190799) Homepage
    BREAKING NEWS: The Genesis Device failed. Investigators believe that the illegal substance, protomatter, was improperly used in creation of the Device, leading to an unstable core. The investigators believe this was the ultimate cause of its failure. Dr. David Marcus, head of the Genesis Project, has gone into hiding.
    • ...Dr. David Marcus, head of the Genesis Project....

      Mod parent +5 Great Big Nerd for being able to remember the fake technology of Wrath of Khan after all these years. ;)
  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:40PM (#10190800) Homepage
    Helicopter pilot's blood completely coagulates in seconds...
  • by Burgundy Advocate (313960) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:42PM (#10190844) Homepage
    There may be something wrong here.

    15:55:26: And wow! Hey! What's this thing coming towards me very fast?
    15:59:14: Very very fast.
    16:00:42: So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding word like... ow... ound... round... ground!
    16:01:03: That's it! That's a good name - ground!
    16:01:52: I wonder if it will be friends with me?
    16:02:31: ***ERROR NO SIGNAL***
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:42PM (#10190857) Homepage Journal
    While CNN and others are now posting pictures of the mangled capsule partially buried in the Utah soil, does anyone know if there is footage of the whole event? By that I mean seeing the capsule hurtling through the atmosphere and then impacting?

    Would be interesting to see from a physics standpoint how something looks impacting the earth when travelling at high speed.

    And please, let's dispense with the "It looks like a blob going SPLUT! How do you think it looks?" comments.
    • by TehHustler (709893) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:15PM (#10191352) Homepage
      Yeah, NASA TV viewers saw it unfold live, and its already been show on news networks.
    • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:38PM (#10191711) Homepage
      I watched it on nasaTV's webcast, and there wasn't a shot of the ground as it hit, more like this:
      Shot of sky. They're saying there's a dot in the sky, but it just looks like sky to me.
      Shot of sky. One of the static bits seems to stay put more that the rest of the static.
      Shot of sky with dot.
      Dot becomes triangle thingy, looks like it's spinning
      Spinning thing gets bigger, more in focus.
      Spinning thing has a saucer-ish shape, is now seen to be tumbling, not just spinning. (voice over at this point is saying something to the effect that the parachute hasn't deployed.)
      Bigger, better focus.
      Even bigger, still better focus.
      Ground.

      It was obvious that the camera operator was focused on the craft, getting the best shot possible of it for as long as possible. As a result, the ground was very surprising when it flashed into the frame. :(
      --
      GMail invites for iPod referrals [slashdot.org]
  • Yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:44PM (#10190894)
    "The capsule broke open on impact. It was not yet clear whether the $260 million Genesis mission was ruined."

    Any time the press in mentioning the price tag in their headlines, you know you're screwed.
  • Hilarity ensued. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:45PM (#10190903)
    I have to say, this has all of the elements for a funny story. You've got NASA, you've got a probe named Genesis [for your Star Trek Genesis Device reference], you've got sand [for your Star Wars reference -- sand people, probe looking like Luke's home from a distance, etc]. You've got space dust [for your Andromeda Strain reference]. You've got helicopters [for a military reference]. You've got an impled "mission accomplished!" presidental reference.

    I think the people at fark.com [fark.com] have all the angles covered.
  • by BTWR (540147) <americangibor3@yahoo . c om> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:45PM (#10190904) Homepage Journal
    "Genesis" projects... they always seem to fail...

    NASA's attempt this morning

    Star Trek II

  • by SiliconEntity (448450) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:45PM (#10190907)
    ...the helicopter pilot would have seen the problem, matched courses with the probe, and sent his chopper into a 100 MPH dive parallelling the probe. Someone on board would have tied a rope around his waist and leaped out, freefalling, and grabbed the probe. All the time the pilot would have been shouting out the altimeter readings... 10000 feet! 9000 feet! 8000 feet!

    They would have gotten the probe on board just in time for the pilot to pull out of the dive one foot above land. Then as soon as they brought the probe back to base and got it out of the copter the charge would have gone off and the chutes would blast into the air, leaving the scientist member of the team covered with soot, while everyone laughed.
  • Press conference (Score:3, Informative)

    by keiferb (267153) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:47PM (#10190930) Homepage
    FYI, there's going to be a press conference at 2:00PM EST. I know at least CNN will be covering it, for those of us who don't get NASA TV.
  • by carn1fex (613593) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:47PM (#10190939)
    We were watching it live in the NASA cafeteria (GSFC) at lunch time on the tvs.. silence.. camera follows, follows, follows.. then the best collective "OH SHIT!" ive heard yelled in years. Then the cooks came out to watch and gave the best "Damn y'all dun fucked up huh?" look ive seen in years.
  • Possible Cause... (Score:5, Informative)

    by lostOnEarth (811738) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:47PM (#10190942)
    According to NASA's NSSDC master catalog:

    There was some concern that the sample return capsule battery would fail, jeopardizing the re-entry. The battery was overheating, but ground tests have shown that the battery should be unaffected by the amount of heating it has endured, and should operate to deploy the parachute on reentry.

    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/database/MasterCatalog? sc=2001-034A [nasa.gov]

  • by koa (95614) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:48PM (#10190953)

    Man, I can dream can't I?

  • by suso (153703) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:48PM (#10190954) Homepage Journal
    Damnit, I must have misplaced a decimal point or something. I always do that I always mess up some mundane detail.

    Oh, this is not a mundane detail, Michael!!
  • Sad... (Score:3, Informative)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:50PM (#10190975) Homepage Journal
    From TF CNN A:

    This daring retrieval method will protect the samples and sensitive instruments during reentry. A crash landing, even at the capsule's relatively slow speed of 9 mph, could ruin some of the data collected during the mission.

    Considering the fact that it hit the ground at about a 100mph, when a crash landing at even 9mph was considered dangerous, it is very likely that most of the instrumentation and data is ruined.

    Hopefully the canisters (or the like) containing the samples survived the ride. The helicopter "snatch" strategy sounded hit-and-go to me anyway, but then I'm just an ignorant computer scientist.

  • by Samurai Cat! (15315) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:51PM (#10190994) Homepage
    I'm admittedly largely ignorant of the Genesis project and the issues recovering it, but...

    Couldn't they have possibly gotten that probe into an orbit that a shuttle could have matched, and recover the probe that way?

    Granted, it could be a while before a shuttle could be tasked to such a recovery, but one could think they could put the probe into a reasonably stable orbit to wait until that time.
    • by rtaylor (70602)
      Couldn't they have possibly gotten that probe into an orbit that a shuttle could have matched, and recover the probe that way?

      Of course, but then the cost would have been closer to $1B instead of $260M.

      I'm sure their second attempt (total cost including $260M attempt still under $600M) will be better.
  • by joshuao3 (776721) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @12:58PM (#10191094) Homepage
    This from MSNBC: "It picked up speed rapidly as Earth's gravitational pull brought it closer, reaching velocities of 25,000 mph or 11 kilometers per second. The capsule's descent was then slowed somewhat by atmospheric re-entry." They then forgot to mention that it hit at only 100mph. I'd say hitting the ground at 100mph was just barely a "slowed somewhat". No one could ever accuse the media of overexagerating the facts!
  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:06PM (#10191215)
    In the old days before video spy satellites, film canisters were recovered by helicopter snatching of parachutes. Its a well-tried technology.
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdotNO@SPAMdeforest.org> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:12PM (#10191316)
    The reports that the re-entry vehicle was seen to be tumbling rather than spinning properly makes me wonder if sloppy thinking about rigid body kinematics [csuchico.edu] came into play yet again? Spinning objects often behave in tricky, counterintuitive ways, and even in a mission of this scale it would not be too surprising to find that the spacecraft tumbled when the engineers intended it to spin smoothly.


    If true, it would not be the first time -- by a long shot -- that the strange behavior of spinning objects caused trouble for a spacecraft. Some of the early three-axis-stabilized satellites were made into inadvertent spinners after their launch stabilization spin made them flip upside down (so that their de-spin rockets made them go faster instead of slowing them down!). SOHO [nasa.gov] was nearly lost in 1998, in part because rotational precession rotated the craft so that the solar panels were in long-term twilight.


    Here's hoping there's something left for the team to analyze. Three years in space plus ten years of planning and lobbying is a long time to wait.

  • by HEMI426 (715714) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @01:21PM (#10191433) Homepage
    Beagle cratered.
    Beagle2 cratered.
    Spirit captured the flag!
    Opportunity captured the flag!
    Genesis cratered.

    I think NASA is still in the lead. :)
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @02:17PM (#10192241) Journal
    From the medial package:

    "Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, Colo., designed, built and operates the spacecraft, and is overseeing the capture and return of the Genesos sample capsule."

    I say that, since we're all about accountablity, that Lockheed Martin pony up the cash they lost through insufficient engineering. It doesn't matter whether is shipped on time, in budget, with purple wings, whatever - the fact is that it failed. If we pay L-M, it will be an indication that the Federal Government is simply handing checks over to corporations.

    On a side note, I happen to know both Alphonzo Diaz and Orlando Figueroa, though I was sufficiently separated from them by management layers that I'm sure they don't remember me. They were both pretty nice guys. It's a shame this didn't work out for them.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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