Monday, May 02, 2005

Teams Pry Secrets From What's Left of Genesis


By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer

     HOUSTON -- Stunt helicopters were supposed to pluck the Genesis space capsule gently from the sky as it parachuted earthward, but the hoped-for Hollywood thriller turned into a sour farce when the parachutes failed to open and it plummeted to the ground like a B-movie flying saucer.

     That was Sept. 8, 2004, the beginning of what Eileen Stansbery called "a stressful, tension-filled time" for a NASA-led team of forensic specialists who spent 26 days in a makeshift clean room trying to salvage a priceless treasure -- particles from the sun like those that gave birth to the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

     Eight months later, however, the Genesis project is "open for business," said Stansbery, assistant director of astromaterials research and exploration science at Houston's Johnson Space Center. Samples are available to researchers for study, and it appears the project will probably realize all the science it hoped for, although "maybe not with the same precision" and not "as quickly as we originally wanted," she said.

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