Image of Donald Sweetnam
A NASA mission to gather particles shed by the Sun is now operating under the management of Donald Sweetnam of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Sweetnam was named project manager for the Genesis Discovery Mission last month. He has worked on the project since its proposal stage in 1997, most recently as manager of mission operations. The Genesis spacecraft, launched in 2001, will return its collected sample of the solar wind to Earth in September 2004 with a dramatic mid-air catch by helicopter over the Utah Test and Training Range.

"Genesis is an exciting scientific mission that will give us a fundamentally new understanding of the composition of the Sun and could rewrite the early history of the solar system," Sweetnam said. "The Earth return is going to be exciting. It will be the first sample return to Earth from beyond lunar orbit."

In more than 25 years at JPL, he has conducted scientific investigations into the physical properties and atmospheres of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and the large moons Io, Titan and Triton. The investigations used data returned by NASA's Pioneer, Mariner, Viking and Voyager missions.

Sweetnam grew up in La Crescenta, about five miles from JPL, and attended Crescenta Valley High School. College studies took him to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, then to California State University, Los Angeles, where he finished a degree in mathematics. He now lives in La CaƱada Flintridge.

Genesis is sponsored by NASA's Discovery Program, which competitively selects low-cost missions for solar system exploration. Dr. Donald Burnett of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, is the mission's principal investigator. As project manager, Sweetnam coordinates the efforts of about 35 people working on Genesis. He succeeds Chester Sasaki, who is now project manager for Kepler, a Discovery mission slated for launch in 2007.

JPL, a division of Caltech, manages Genesis for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colo., designed and built the spacecraft and operates it jointly with JPL. Major portions of the payload design and fabrication were carried out at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and at Johnson Space Center.

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