'Flying saucer' photo released by NASA as it revisits old project's demise

NASA explains this 'flying saucer' that crash-landed in Utah

NASA has posted an image of a crashed flying "saucer".

The U.S. space agency says the photo below shows wreckage from the return of the NASA-launched Genesis spaceship it originally launched back in 2001 to study the sun.

Despite being tracked by radar and monitored by chase helicopters the capsule crash-landed when its parachutes failed to open resulting in a rather hard, 300kph landing, three years later. The capsule's parachute failed to open, causing it to crash in a Utah desert back in 2004.

The "flying saucer" isn't an alien spaceship though - it is the remnants of the robot spaceship Genesis that was created to study the Sun and launched in 2001.

The downed "flying saucer" was a sample return capsule from NASA's Genesis Mission.

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Now, we know what you're thinking when you read "flying saucer", and no, it wasn't a downed alien spacecraft.

"The saucer, pictured here, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun", NASA said on its Astronomy Photo of the Day website.

Despite coming down to Earth much more violently than expected, numerous samples the return capsule carried remained in good enough condition to study.

This data provided researchers with a better understanding of the composition of our Sun and how both it and the planets formed billions of years ago, as well as providing insight into the true abundance of certain elements throughout our solar system.

"We found that Earth, the moon, as well as Martian and other meteorites, which are samples of asteroids, have a lower concentration of the O-16 than does the sun", said Kevin McKeegan, a Genesis co-investigator from UCLA, and the lead author of one of two scientific papers published on the matter, NASA said.

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