Particles of solar wind have been extracted by scientists from NASA’s Genesis space capsule which crashed to Earth in Utah in 2004.

Genesis spent over two years in space collecting specks of solar wind. The capsule was supposed to be snagged by a helicopter after its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on 8 September 2004. But the craft’s parachutes never opened and it hit the Utah mud at about 310 kilometres per hour.

The crash contaminated some of the capsule’s collector trays with mud and water, while smashing other collectors into small pieces – raising concerns that the solar bounty might not have been salvageable.

“Solar wind is definitely there. We can see that,” says Charles Hohenberg, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US. “We need to calibrate the instrument a little bit better, but we don’t anticipate any real problems.”

Hohenberg and colleague Alex Meshik received a kidney-shaped aluminium collector from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in January. Another team at the University of Minnesota recently began analysing another gold foil collector for nitrogen particles.

And from Tuesday, NASA is accepting requests from other scientists who would like to study particles of the solar wind captured by Genesis.

More here.