Photographers take aim as the Boeing Delta II rocket propels NASA’s Genesis spacecraft into the sky on a journey to collect and return to Earth just 10 to 20 micrograms of solar wind, invisible charged particles that flow outward from the Sun.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

In the Beginning... (Updated!)
News story originally written on August 14, 2001

On August 8, 2001, NASA launched the next of its robotic space missions: The Genesis mission. Genesis had a perfect launch aboard its Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral. Everything with the mission continues to go smoothly. The Genesis spacecraft is now traveling toward the Sun and will assume an orbit around L1, a position in space where the gravitational pulls from the Earth and Sun are balanced.

Once in position, the Genesis craft will open collector arrays and begin to capture particles that make up the solar wind. These particles are tiny, charged bits of matter than have been expelled by the Sun. In April, 2004, after almost three years of collecting material, the spacecraft will return to Earth. The collected solar material will be recovered in a dramatic, mid-air helicopter capture, so that the impact of landing does not damage the samples. The Genesis mission will be the first mission to collect and return material from beyond the orbit of the Moon.

Studying these particles should help answer fundamental questions about the exact composition of the Sun and about the birth of our solar system. The mission should provide enough material to last for decades of research, which means that further studies of the Sun and its composition will also be possible.

Last modified August 14, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more

Mother Nature's Air Conditioning

J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service has referred to forests as the "heart and lungs of the world." Forests reduce soil erosion, maintain water quality, contribute to atmospheric humidity and cloud...more

Planetary Alignment 2002

In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible simultaneously in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see because of its proximity to the...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA