JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
October 14, 2004
Donald Savage (202) 358-1727
NEWS RELEASE: 2004-345 October 14, 2004
NASA'S GENESIS MISHAP BOARD & RESEARCHERS BOTH
As scientists begin to unpack more than 3,000 containers
of samples of the sun brought to Earth by NASA's Genesis
mission, the Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) has
identified a likely direct cause of the failure of
Genesis' parachute system to open.
The parachute system failed to deploy when Genesis
returned to Earth September 8, 2004. The MIB, analyzing
the Genesis capsule at a facility near Denver, said
the likely cause was
a design error that involves the orientation of gravity-switch
devices. The switches sense the braking caused by
the high-speed entry into the atmosphere, and then
initiate the timing sequence leading to deployment
of the craft's drogue parachute and parafoil.
"This single cause has not yet been fully confirmed,
nor has it been determined whether it is the only
problem within the Genesis system," said Dr.
Michael G. Ryschkewitsch, the MIB chair. "The
Board is working to confirm this proximate cause,
to determine why this error happened, why it was not
caught by the test program and an extensive set of
in-process and after-the-fact reviews of the Genesis
Meanwhile, scientists unpacking samples at NASA's
Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, curation facility
remain upbeat in their assessment of the prospects
for obtaining useful
science from the recovered samples.
The facility counted more than 3,000 tracking numbers
for the containers that hold pieces of wafers from
the five collector panels. The panels secured samples
of atoms and ions from the solar wind that were collected
during Genesis' nearly three-year mission in deep
space. Some of the containers hold as many as 96 pieces
of the wafers. The team has been preparing the samples
for study since the science payload and recovered
samples arrived at JSC October 4.
Planning is under way for preliminary examination
of the samples to prepare for allocation to the science
community. The samples eventually will be moved to
the JSC Genesis clean room where they will be cleaned,
examined and then distributed to scientists, promising
researchers years of study into the origins and evolution
of the solar system.
"We cheered the news from the science team about
the recovery of a significant amount of the precious
samples of the sun," said Dr. Ghassem Asrar,
deputy associate administrator for the Science Mission
Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "Despite
the hard landing, Genesis was able to deliver. However,
we await the final report of the Mishap Board to understand
what caused the malfunction, and to hear the Board's
recommendations for how we can avoid such a problem
in the future," he added.
The recovered remains of the Sample Return Capsule
(SRC) are undergoing engineering inspections and tests
at the Waterton, Colo., facility of Lockheed Martin
Astronautics (LMA). The Genesis spacecraft and SRC
were built at Waterton. Lockheed Martin is supporting
the MIB both to examine the recovered hardware and
in assembling documentation relevant to the development
of the space system.
"Both Lockheed Martin and JPL have been providing
every possible support to our investigation. All of
the people from both organizations who were involved
in the Genesis project have been extremely professional
and cooperative in helping the Board do its work,"
said Dr. Ryschkewitsch.
The safety critical pyrotechnic devices and the damaged
lithium sulfur dioxide battery have been secured to
allow safe operations. The battery has been transported
to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (JPL),
Calif., to begin detailed evaluation.The MIB is evaluating
the recovered hardware, pertinent documentation, impact
site recovery activities and interviewing people from
The MIB is using a fault tree as its guide. A fault
tree is a formal method for determining, organizing
and evaluating possible direct causes for a mishap
and to trace them to root causes.
The Board's charter is to examine every possible cause
and to determine whether it was related to the mishap.
The Board expects to complete its work by late November.
For more information about the Genesis mission on
the Internet, visit: