Genesis was one of NASA’s Discovery missions, and its purpose was to collect samples of solar wind and return them to Earth. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was the managing Center; the California Institute of Technology was designated the principal investigator and project team leader. Los Alamos National Laboratory provided the science instruments, and Lockheed Martin Corporation (acting through its Lockheed Martin Space Systems company) was the industrial partner and provided the spacecraft and sample return capsule. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Astronautics conducted mission operations. Launched on August 8, 2001, Genesis was to provide fundamental data to help scientists understand the formation of our solar system. Analysis of solar materials collected and returned to Earth will give precise data on the chemical and isotopic composition of the solar wind. On September 8, 2004 the Genesis sample return capsule drogue parachute did not deploy during entry, descent, and landing operations over the Utah Test and Training Range. The drogue parachute was intended to slow the capsule and provide stability during transonic flight. After the point of expected drogue deployment, the sample return capsule began to tumble and impacted the Test Range at 9:58:52 MDT, at which point vehicle safing and recovery operations began. On September 10, 2004, the Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate established a Type A Mishap Investigation Board as defined by NASA Procedural Requirements 8621.1A, NASA Procedural Requirements for Mishap Reporting, Investigating, and Recordkeeping, to determine the cause and potential lessons from the incident. The Board was chartered to determine the proximate cause of the failure, identify the root causes, and develop recommendations to strengthen processes within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to avoid similar incidents in the future. Additionally, the Board was to determine the adequacy of contingency response planning and the appropriateness of the actual contingency response, to include the safing and securing of the spacecraft and the science payload, and the protection of response personnel. The Board determined the proximate (or direct) cause of the mishap to be that the G-switch sensors were in an inverted orientation, per an erroneous design, and were unable to sense sample return capsule deceleration during atmospheric entry and initiate parachute deployments.The Board found that deficiencies in the following four pre-launch processes resulted in the mishap: the design process inverted the G-switch sensor design; the design review process did not detect the design error; the verification process did not detect the design error; and the Red Team review process did not uncover the failure in the verification process. The Board identified several root causes and major contributing factors that resulted in the design inversion of the G-switch sensors and the failures to detect it. The root causes and contributing factors fall into six categories, some of which contributed to more than one of the above process errors.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Paperback, ISBN 10: 148027979X, ISBN 13: 9781480279797