Saturday, April 23, 2005
Here comes the sun: Sol's dust salvaged
Thought people might find this story interesting. Look who made the equipment that worked and who made the equipment that didn't work. Now, imagine that it had been the other way around and LANL was the one who was responsible for the screwup. There would be a congressional inquiry and probably a front page story in the New York Times. And you can bet that story would end with a reminder that we are a "troubled National Laboratory" along with a rehash of Wen Ho Lee, Walp and Doran, missing CREM, blah, blah, blah. Anybody care to take a bet that this REAL screwup will never get considered in the laboratory recompete?
Denver Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005 -
Scientists have recovered precious bits of solar wind from a Colorado-built spacecraft that crashed in the Utah desert last year, information they expect will help them understand the solar system's birth.
Genesis, a $264 million NASA craft built by Lockheed Martin in Jefferson County, traveled three years and 1.86 million miles to bring solar dust back to Earth.
NASA had repeatedly said scientists should be able to glean information from the spacecraft's smashed wafers, which collected particles blown off the sun's surface.
Seven months after the September crash, they've done it, Roger Wiens, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said Wednesday.
"Several analyses now have shown that we have the solar wind we were looking for," said Wiens, who has been closely involved in NASA's Genesis mission.
Scientists believe the sun's surface has changed little since the solar system's birth about 4 billion years ago, so solar wind - clouds of tiny particles blown away from the star - can illuminate conditions back then.
After last fall's disaster, investigators quickly determined that Lockheed engineers installed four switches backward, an error that drove the spacecraft into the desert at about 200 mph. Genesis should have drifted down on parachutes.
Investigators also concluded that a similar mission - Stardust - will probably not suffer the same fate. That craft is due back to Earth in January carrying rare comet dust, and NASA officials said they're confident its landing system will work.
Conel Alexander, a physicist with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, said he's been hearing for several weeks that researchers were having some success with Genesis' crushed wafers, broken into 15,000 pieces. NASA began sending out some of the fragments for analysis a few months ago.
Alexander said he was pleased to hear that solar particles have now been confirmed.
He has been hoping to get his hands on some Genesis samples eventually, to study the precise types of oxygen and nitrogen atoms found in solar wind.
Such data should illuminate early processes in the solar system that led to planet-formation, he said.
Those measurements also will be the hardest to make, given the dirt contaminating the samples, said Don Burnett, Genesis chief scientist and a California Institute of Technology geochemist.
"We're doing the easy stuff first," Burnett said. "The tough stuff, things like oxygen and carbon, we're not there yet. We've been beaten back by the amount of contamination."
"But we're going to do it," he insisted. "It's just going to take time."
A Lockheed spokesman said the Genesis mission will ultimately be remembered for its important scientific quest.
"For that reason, we are greatly encouraged by reports from program scientists that the significant amount of samples recovered from the mission are likely to allow them to achieve most of the scientific objectives," said Buddy Nelson.
article said Los Alamos was to
blame. Nanos would be out on Monday
to give a prees confrece slaming the
lab again. Of course he would not
check facts. The typo in the paper
is than corrected. Nanos would say
nothing but LANL would still pay.
This is our learder. There is