, Volume 105, Issue 3-4, pp 509-534

The Genesis Discovery Mission: Return of Solar Matter to Earth

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Abstract

The Genesis Discovery mission will return samples of solar matter for analysis of isotopic and elemental compositions in terrestrial laboratories. This is accomplished by exposing ultra-pure materials to the solar wind at the L1 Lagrangian point and returning the materials to Earth. Solar wind collection will continue until April 2004 with Earth return in Sept. 2004. The general science objectives of Genesis are to (1) to obtain solar isotopic abundances to the level of precision required for the interpretation of planetary science data, (2) to significantly improve knowledge of solar elemental abundances, (3) to measure the composition of the different solar wind regimes, and (4) to provide a reservoir of solar matter to serve the needs of planetary science in the 21st century. The Genesis flight system is a sun-pointed spinner, consisting of a spacecraft deck and a sample return capsule (SRC). The SRC houses a canister which contains the collector materials. The lid of the SRC and a cover to the canister were opened to begin solar wind collection on November 30, 2001. To obtain samples of O and N ions of higher fluence relative to background levels in the target materials, an electrostatic mirror (‘concentrator’) is used which focuses the incoming ions over a diameter of about 20 cm onto a 6 cm diameter set of target materials. Solar wind electron and ion monitors (electrostatic analyzers) determine the solar wind regime present at the spacecraft and control the deployment of separate arrays of collector materials to provide the independent regime samples.