NASA's Genesis spacecraft, to be launched aboard a Boeing Delta II vehicle on July 30, arrived today at Florida's Kennedy Space Center from Denver, Colo. aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft.
Genesis will capture a piece of the Sun -- a sample of the ions and elements in the solar wind -- and bring the samples back to Earth so that scientists can study the exact composition of the Sun and probe the solar system's origin. By studying the solar wind, scientists will find clues to the formation of the solar system as we know it today. Genesis is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colo.
In 2004, Genesis' samples will return to Earth in a spectacular helicopter capture. As the sample return capsule parachutes to the ground in Utah's Air Force Test and Training Range, specially trained helicopter pilots will catch it. The samples will then be analyzed to provide a "Rosetta Stone" of solar material for comparing the Sun's original ingredients to those of the planets and other solar system bodies. Information on the mission is available at http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/ .
The spacecraft will be processed for launch in the Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Processing will begin with a functional test, an electrical systems test of the spacecraft and deployment of the solar arrays. A test on June 7 will verify the spacecraft's communications systems and radio links to NASA's Deep Space Network space telecommunications system. Science instrument operations tests are scheduled June 11, and on June 12 the solar arrays will be cleaned and stowed for launch. Loading of the spacecraft's hydrazine propellant is scheduled for the week of June 22, and a spin-balance test will follow on June 29.
Genesis will be mated to a Star 37 upper stage booster on July 17 before being transported to Space Launch Complex 17 the following day. Once mated to the Delta II, a spacecraft functional test will be performed. The payload fairing is to be installed around Genesis on July 25. Stacking of the Boeing Delta 7326 launch vehicle at Pad 17-A is scheduled to begin on June 12. Launch is scheduled for July 30 at 12:36 p.m. EDT.
Genesis is part of NASA's Discovery Program of competitively selected, low-cost solar system exploration missions with highly focused science goals. Chester Sasaki of JPL is project manager, and Dr. Donald Burnett of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena is the principal investigator. JPL is a division of Caltech.
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