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NASA's high hopes for a clean reading of the sun's atomic signature seemed dead Wednesday after the 450-pound Genesis spacecraft came tumbling down in Utah, where it landed with a terrible thud.
The space capsule's parafoil -- a gliding parachute -- did not open on descent. So the craft's three-year mission came to an end with an estimated 194-mph tumble past two helicopters hired by NASA to snare it. The encounter was intended to prevent the cargo, a collection of fragile plates bearing particles from the solar wind, from being destroyed in a collision with Earth.
Recovery crews found remains of the refrigerator-sized craft half-buried in a self-dug crater in a salt flat's barren soil. They did not retrieve it immediately, fearing an explosive device that had failed to jettison the parafoil on descent might yet explode.
One commentator at NASA's post-crash news conference said it looked like the cargo container inside had been breached. If so, the contents would be exposed to contamination...continues globalsecurity.org