Artist rendering of capsule reentry
On April 22, 2004, Genesis began
its journey back toward its home planet. This was initiated
by the first of five planned thruster firings during
the mission's return phase designed to fine-tune the
spacecraft's flight path for Earth return.
Because of the position of the landing site —
the U.S. Air Force's Utah Testing & Training Range
— and the unique geometry of Genesis' flight path,
the spacecraft could not make a direct approach and
still make a daytime landing. In order to allow the
Genesis helicopter crews an opportunity to capture the
return capsule in daylight, Genesis mission navigators
designed an orbital detour toward another Lagrange point,
L2, located on the other side of Earth from the Sun.
After completing one loop around this point in space,
the spacecraft will be set up for a daytime return to
Earth on Sept. 8.