NASA Probe Crashes in Utah Desert

The planned recovery of a capsule carrying solar-wind particles from NASA’s Genesis deep-space mission went awry this morning. The capsule failed to deploy its parachutes and slammed into the desert near the Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range at…

Sep 8, 2004

The planned recovery of a capsule carrying solar-wind particles from NASA’s Genesis deep-space mission went awry this morning. The capsule failed to deploy its parachutes and slammed into the desert near the Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range at 160 kilometers per hour, shattering it open. (View Quicktime video.) Scientists had been waiting for three years for the solar-wind material, which would have been the first material returned to Earth by a U.S. spacecraft since the final Apollo mission in 1972. It was expected to reveal the composition of the primeval cloud from which the sun and the solar system congealed billions of years ago. The capsule–which was to have been scooped from the sky by a helicopter before it hit the ground–remains embedded in the desert, and NASA recovery teams have not yet determined whether any of the collected particles are salvageable.