September 08, 2004

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket

Genesis comes home today.

The returning craft will be snagged out of mid-air by one of two helicopters flown by stunt pilot crews. Why not military? Well, this recovery required a six-year commitment to training, so they went civilian.

America's first 'spy' satellites used the same method of data transfer. They would take pictures over the interesting parts of the world from orbit, then as they passed over the US a small capsule containing the film would be ejected. Military aircrews would snag the capsules in mid-air and then the film would be developed. This was, of course, Top Secret stuff.

When new Air Force generals joined the program, they would be given a briefing of the flight profile of the intelligence missions. Every time, they would object that the recovery plan was nonsense and impossible. It amused the intelligence director to inform the aviation 'experts' that not only was it possible, but that it had already been done on a regular basis. The exact number of successes and failures is still classified, but best guess estimates say they got it right hundreds of times.

Good luck today, guys. Bring home a piece of the sun to have for our very own.

Posted by Ted at September 8, 2004 06:51 AM
Category: Space Program
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