top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#149 - Genesis and MATT

This week we will be talking about creation on earth and on Mars. We celebrate 15 years since the fab Genesis Mission landed in Utah, and look at other space news too

This new combination of modern mathematical theory with advanced computational tools is going to revolutionize the space industry and engineering in general.

Martin Wen-Yu Lo 2002

8 September 2004 - Genesis - First sample return beyond lunar orbit

This artist's conception shows the Genesis spacecraft in collection mode, opened up to collect and store samples of solar wind particles. The cover of the science canister contains one set of collection materials. It is the same kind of hexagonal silicon wafer array that comprises the stack of four arrays that were rotated out of the interior of the canister when the spacecraft began to orbit L1. The bottom three of the stacked arrays are controlled independently, and may be rotated out from the cover of the top of the stack to collect particular types of solar wind. Inside the canister is an electrostatic concentrator to increase the collection of light-weight solar wind particles. It is exposed when the array stack is rotated out. The two solar panels, shown in blue in this depiction, which extend to the side of the spacecraft bus, provide electrical energy for the functions performed by the rest of the spacecraft.

The most steampunk satellite ever?

Genesis was a Discovery class $264 million NASA sample-return probe that collected a sample of solar wind particles and returned them to Earth for analysis.

It was the first NASA sample-return mission to return material since the Apollo program, and the first to return material from beyond the orbit of the Moon.

Genesis was launched on August 8, 2001, and the sample return capsule crash-landed in Utah on September 8, 2004, after a design flaw prevented the deployment of its drogue parachute.

The crash contaminated many of the sample collectors. Although most were damaged, some of the collectors were successfully recovered

The Genesis science team demonstrated that some of the contamination could be removed or avoided and that the solar wind particles could be analyzed using a variety of approaches, achieving all of the mission's major science objectives.

Genesis solar wind collector array before installation and launch.

Genesis carried several different solar wind collectors, all of which passively collected solar wind; that is, the collectors sat in space facing the Sun, while the ions in the solar wind crashed into them at speeds over 200 km/s and, on impact, buried themselves in the surface of the collectors.

Lockeed cocked up by skipping a test that would have revealed they put a tiny capicitor sized accelerometer in the wrong way round, causing the bad crash landing.

The cool part of the mission is the ace orbital mechanics, an amazing example brain power.

Dr. Martin Lo of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory presented The Interplanetary Superhighway and received a Microcosm mouse pad with Keplerian orbital formulae.Organization for the Advancement of Space Industrialization and Settlement

The boss of this was Martin Wen-Yu Lo who is a spacecraft trajectory expert/god at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Since 1986, with his phd in maths from Cornell.

Famous for his work on the Interplanetary superhighway and the development of his program LTool, which was used on this mission to great affect.

The Ltool uses Chaos theory, at these delicate tiping points at the legrange points. Here is how Martin Lo described it to Jacinta Behne;

"For Genesis we want an orbit that's always facing the Sun in order to continually collect particles via the solar wind. Using a "halo orbit" around the L1 Lagrange point.

Describing these delicate balances of forces (legrange points) as “the seed of the "chaos" which we can use to great advantage”

“Chaos is a bad thing if you can't control it or don't understand it. But, like any powerful technology, properly understood, "chaos" can be really useful. In fact, we will use a connection between L1 and L2 predicted by chaos theory which requires very little energy in order to bring Genesis back to Utah. How little you ask? Well, believe it or not, theoretically, if we performed the entire mission absolutely flawlessly without any errors, once the Genesis spacecraft is launched, the spacecraft will automatically go into the L1 halo orbit, collect the solar wind particles, and bring it all back to Utah right on schedule without firing a single rocket engine!

But if you don't handle chaos properly, even if you just breathe on the spacecraft, it can cause the spacecraft to fly off and escape the Earth completely.

it's even more fantastic than you can imagine. The halo orbits at L1 and L2 are actually "portals" to a network of dynamical tunnels that connects the entire Solar System. By jumping into the "hole" in the halo orbit, you enter this vast and ancient labyrinth of tunnels and passageways that connects the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto to all of the planets, all the way to the Sun. Instead of the picture that Copernicus and Kepler gave us of planets in nearly circular orbits around the Sun, isolated from one another, the solar system is alive, breathing, and communicating, sending objects like comets and asteroids from place to place throughout the Solar System. I call this system of tunnels the "InterPlanetary Superhighway."

The Genesis mission is perfectly named. Not only is the science of the Genesis mission to study the origin of the Solar System, but its trajectory has been the very means by which the life building and life shaping objects have come to the Earth"

The Genesis probe was able to travel 1.5 million kilometers toward the Sun which is some four times farther than the Moon’s orbit. Genesis then orbited the Earth’s L1 Lagrange point in collecting particles of the solar wind for two and a half years before travelling millions of kilometers along a circuitous path that looped by another Lagrange point, L2

before returning to Earth in September 2004.

Amazingly, Genesis completed this vast trek using hardly any fuel. The probe did so by following one of the many possible low-energy paths through the solar system, routes that have long served as natural conduits between planets for asteroids and comets.

Some of these conduits lead to a collision with Earth, as the Genesis probe’s path did by design.


Mars- Omaha Crater is a piece of digital artwork by James Vaughan from ROOM magazine

81 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page