Editor's note: The material on this page was prepared before Genesis' Sept. 8 landing, during which the drogue parachute and parafoil did not deploy. For the latest on Genesis, click on the
"+ Genesis Main" link to the left.
Most scientists believe that the solar system was formed when a cloud of gas and dust from previous generations of stars collapsed some 4-1/2 billion years ago, forming the Sun, planets, comets and asteroids. Exactly how that transformation took place both intrigues and mystifies scientists.
The Genesis mission will provide more clues by collecting samples of the solar wind, material flowing outward from the Sun. Comparing them with known compositions of the planets will help in the effort to understand our cosmic origins.
Following launch August 8, 2001, the Genesis spacecraft headed toward an orbit around L1, a point between Earth and the Sun where the gravity of both bodies is balanced. Genesis will unfurl its collector arrays and begin collecting particles of the solar wind that will imbed themselves in specially designed high purity wafers. After two years, the sample collectors will be re-stowed and returned to Earth for a mid-air recovery of the sample return capsule. Related Features + Mission timeline + Studying the Sun