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Back story: how it went down.

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Even Hollywood stunt pilots couldn't save the $264 million Genesis solar wind mission as it plunged to Earth on September 8, 2004. The original plan was for Genesis to deploy a drogue parachute and then a parafoil to slow its screaming re-entry from space; helicopters flown by professional daredevils hired by NASA would have swooped in to hook the capsule and lower it gently to the ground in western Utah. But internal sensors that should have started the drogue deployment had been installed upside down, an investigation team later found--and malfunctioning sensors meant no chute. Just minutes after it entered the atmosphere, Genesis was a haphazard collection of twisted metal scattered across a barren landscape.

Other scientists have experienced the sickening pit-in-the-stomach feeling that Genesis researchers felt that day. In 1999, NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter was lost because of an engineering mix-up between English and metric units of measurement. In 1993, the Mars Observer also disappeared in space, probably because of a rupture in the propellant system. In fact, Mars has been a veritable graveyard of planetary missions; the Soviet Union lost a number of spacecraft there in the 1970s and 1980s.

SOURCE: GENESIS MISHAP INVESTIGATION BOARD REPORT/NASA
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Title Annotation:IN THE NEWS; Genesis solar wind mission
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 16, 2011
Words:201
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