“We had a mangled mess,” explained NASA programscientist David Lindstrom to reporters after space capsule Genesiscrashed in Salt Lake City. The capsule which had spent threeyears in orbit, crashed while returning to Earth on Sept. 8, afterits parachutes failed to open.
Upon impact, the capsule broke open like aclamshell, leaving the inner cylinder ripped open and badlytwisted. It was hard for scientists to assess the damagebecause the atom disks were packed together very tightly, however,they are hopeful that the atoms will be salvaged and have alreadybegun reconstruction.
Robert Corwin, an engineer for Lockheed MartinSpace Systems, which designed and built the space capsule,explained that a battery, which overheated shortly after theGenesis was launched in 2001, might have caused the mishap.
Genesis was a $264 million mission whose goalwas to collect atoms captured from the solar wind from thesun. Scientists hoped that these particles would hold thekeys to the solar system’s origin, and help them understandwhat keeps it fueled today.
Space Shuttle Genesis’s crashrepresented a setback for NASA, which is still dealing with theaftermath of the shuttle Columbia and its crew. In January of2003, Space Shuttle Columbia crashed killing seven Israeliastronauts, after orbiting the Earth for 16 days.
However, NASA triumphed in the success of itstwin Mars Exploration Rovers A and B launched in June and July of2003; and in the Cassini mission to Saturn. The Stardust,another NASA probe, is due to return in 2006, bearing samples ofcosmic dust from a comet’s wake and the Messenger, meant as amapping and science mission, was launched this August, and isscheduled to orbit Mercury by March 2011.
In the past four years, Congress has allottedbillions of dollars for space missions and research. In 2001,it was $14.3 billion, in 2002, it was $14.9 billion, in 2003, itwas $15.0 billion, and currently it is $15.4 billion.
Speech Communications major, Anthony Hendricksfelt that the amount of money spent on these missions isworthwhile. “People have an urge to explore. Ourspace exploration is not a waste of funds because of thebenefits.”
Unlike Hendricks, Dr. William Starosta, aHoward University Research Seminar teacher felt that those billionsof dollars would be better spent on Earth rather than on exploringit.
Recently, President Bush committed the UnitedStates to a long-term human and robotics program to explore thesolar system. The first mission of this program isAmerica’s completion of its work on the International SpaceStation by 2010. This new vision also included a manned spaceexploration vehicle to explore beyond our orbit to other worlds anda return to the moon as early as 2015 and no later than 2020. The additional funding for this exploration, totaling $12 billionover the next five years, will come from reallocation of $11billion, which is already within the five-year total NASA budget of$86 billion.
“This exploration is of no benefit tome. There are other things that money could be used for likehelping the poor, or it could be used towards education, andtechnology, anything,” said Junior Wallace Smith, a marketingmajor at Morehouse University. “I’m not sayingdon’t go to space, but the government needs toprioritize.”