[FPSPACE] NY Times: Genesis capsule crash due to sensor installed backwards

Chris Jones clj at panix.com
Fri Oct 15 13:07:00 EDT 2004


Jim Oberg wrote:
> NY Times: Genesis capsule crash due to sensor installed backwards
> 
>     Faulty Sensors May Explain Capsule Crash
> 
> *By KENNETH CHANG, New York Times*
> 
> Published: October 15, 2004
> http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/15/science/space/15genesis.html?oref=login&oref=login 
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/15/science/space/15genesis.html?oref=login&oref=login>
> 
> The crash of a capsule returning fragile samples of solar particles last 
> month was likely to have been caused by a design flaw that led to the 
> sensors that were to deploy the capsule's parachutes being pointed in 
> the wrong direction, a NASA investigatory panel reported yesterday.

Yikes.  Conspicuous (to me, anyway) by its absence is any discussion of what
this means for Stardust, currently scheduled to return its comet samples to
the same Utah proving ground using the same method and a landing capsule
designed by the same Lockheed Martin team (and whose description sounds pretty
darn identical to the Genesis return capsule).

Maybe a giant air mattress should be installed in the Utah desert.  Or the
helicopter crews should practice catching a small capsule falling at 200 mph
instead of snagging a parachute gently descending.

Interestingly, Colin Pillinger, of Beagle infamy, was an investigator on the
Genesis mission (one article I read described Genesis as a "Pillinger-designed
lander", which I believe is not true, though wouldn't that want to make one
check the gravity sensing switches on Beagle!).  I remember hearing him
declaring the Genesis mission a complete loss very shortly after the (ahem)
landing, which haste I thought was in interesting contrast to his willingness
to wait well beyond all reasonable doubt for Beagle to phone home before
reluctantly declaring it a glorious incomplete success (granted he had
pictures of Genesis on which to base his conclusion, but he still got it
wrong).  Anyway, given the outward similarity in shapes between Genesis and
Beagle, maybe those pictures give an idea of what Beagle looks like.


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