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  Atmosphere Entry

At 9:55 a.m. MDT, the capsule entered Earth's atmosphere at a velocity of approximately 11.04 kilometers per second (24,706 miles per hour). The only human-made object to re-enter Earth's atmosphere at a higher speed was the Apollo 10 command module, which hit 11.11 kilometers per second (24,861 mph). When it entered the atmosphere, the Genesis capsule was over northern Oregon. The capsule stabilized with its nose down because of the location of its center of gravity, its spin rate and its aerodynamic shape.

In an optimal situation, forty-five seconds after entry, the capsule will be exposed to a deceleration force three times the force of Earth gravity, or 3 G's. This arms a timer that is started when the deceleration force passes back down through 3 G's. All of the parachute releases are initiated from this timer. Sixty seconds after entry, at an altitude of 60 kilometers (197,000 feet), the exterior temperature of the heat shield will peak at about 2,500 C (4,500 F). Slightly over 10 seconds later, the capsule will be exposed to about 30 G's, the greatest deceleration it will endure during Earth entry. During this time period, the capsule's heat shield will lose an estimated 3 kilograms (about 7 pounds), or about 6 percent of its weight, as a small amount of the ablative material erodes away with the heat generated during entry through the atmosphere.

At 127 seconds into entry at an altitude of about 33 kilometers (108,000 feet), a mortar aboard the capsule will fire, releasing the 2.03-meter-diameter (6.7-foot) drogue parachute to provide stability to the capsule until the main chute is released. The capsule's heat shield will rapidly cool during this subsonic portion of the descent.

Four minutes and fifteen seconds later, at an altitude of 6,700 meters (22,000 feet), three pyrotechnic bolts will release the drogue chute from the capsule. As the drogue chute moves away, it will extract the capsule's main chute, a 10.5- by 3.1-meter (34.6- by 12.1-foot) parafoil. Full inflation of the parafoil will occur in about 6 seconds. Once inflation is complete, the parafoil and its payload will begin a slow, loose spiral descent through the skies of the Utah Test & Training Range.

Genesis landing pre-return footprint and projected landing targets (small)

Genesis landing pre-return footprint and projected landing targets

Mishap Investigation Board Report

The landing footprint for the sample return capsule is an ellipse that takes in most of the Utah Test & Training Range, except for some areas that have a high population density. The footprint is an ample area to allow for aerodynamic uncertainties and winds that might affect the direction the capsule travels during its descent. button
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Curator: Aimee Meyer
Updated: November 2009

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