Significantly improve knowledge about the differingamounts of elements in solar composition, called solar abundances
. Genesis’goal is to improve by atleast threefold the accuracy of estimates of the abun-dance of each element. The best present source of elemental abundances has uncertainties in its model-ing that result in significant errors in the calculatedabundances.
Obtain separate samples of the three different typesor regimes of solar wind
. These will be collected sep-arately, and compared to the bulk of the solar wind.
Provide a reservoir of solar matter for 21st centuryscience.
The mission phase of sample analysis willnot consume all of the available collector material.The remainder will be carefully curated for futurestudies. There need be only one solar wind samplereturn mission.Building on these general objectives, the Genesisscience team has developed a set of 18 specific mea-surement objectives to address specific scienceissues. For example, differences in the solar and ter-restrial isotopic compositions of nitrogen and thenoble gases (neon, argon, krypton and xenon) willform the basis for definitive modeling of the extentof losses from Earth's atmosphere early in the historyof our planet.
The part of the spacecraft that returns to Earth,the sample return capsule, contains a canister thatholds the solar wind collector materials, protectingthem from contamination during launch and reentry.The canister was built at the Jet PropulsionLaboratory, then cleaned in an ultra-pure environ-ment at Johnson Space Center, before the collectormaterials were loaded. Also inside the canister is asolar wind concentrator, a bowl-shaped instrumentthat will focus the ions in the solar wind to 20 timesits normal concentration on a special set of targetmaterials. The enhanced concentration is necessaryto measure elements such as oxygen and nitrogenabove the impurity background in all available mate-rials.After the craft enters its orbit, the solar collectorsfold out, allowing ions and particles from the solarwind to embed themselves in small hexagonal collec-tor tiles on the face of the arrays. The solar wind con-centrator is exposed as the collector arrays move out.As time passes, the spacecraft encounters the dif-ferent solar wind regimes. These are recognized byelectron and ion monitors located on the spacecraft’smain body outside the sample return capsule. Thesignals from the monitors to recognize the differentsolar wind regimes are processed by onboard com-puters. Once a regime is identified, a collector arraydedicated to this regime is deployed and two othersets of arrays are hidden, providing independent sam-ples of the different regimes.
The spacecraft was launched on August 8,2001, from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral,Florida, on a Delta 7326 rocket. It left Earth's atmos-phere and traveled out to a point where gravity fromthe Earth and Sun are precisely balanced, called theL1 Lagrange point, clear of Earth's magnetosphere.In early November 2001, it entered into a halo orbitaround L1 -- an orbit around a point in space, not aparticular body. The collector arrays opened up in
Genesis’sample return capsule