Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2004 September 14
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Genesis Mission's Hard Impact
Credit: Genesis Mission, NASA

Explanation: A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert last week after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. No space aliens were involved, however. The saucer, pictured above, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot Genesis spaceship launched three years ago by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at over 300 kilometers per hour occurred because the parachutes did not open as planned. The Genesis mission had been orbiting the Sun collecting solar wind particles that are usually deflected away by Earth's magnetic field. A big question remains -- are the returned samples in good enough condition to recover information about the real composition of the Sun? Genesis team scientists and engineers are working hard to find out.

Tomorrow's picture: ivan the terrible

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.