Solar System Surprise

During two years in interplanetary space, a NASA spacecraft called Genesis collected particles from the solar wind. Its purpose was to capture these atoms from the Sun and return them to Earth, where scientists would determine the solar abundances of various stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen, as well as other elements. These solar abundances can also be thought of as solar system abundances, since the Sun and planets all formed from the same cloud of matter and most of their combined mass resides in the Sun. The mission to determine these abundances might have been a complete success if the spacecraft's parachutes hadn't failed during re-entry, causing the solar wind collectors to shatter upon impact with the ground.

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