NASA Releases Images of a Crashed 'Flying Saucer' in the Utah Desert... But It's Not

Tuesday, 06 November 2018 - 12:31PM
NASA
Earth
Tuesday, 06 November 2018 - 12:31PM
NASA Releases Images of a Crashed 'Flying Saucer' in the Utah Desert... But It's Not
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USAF 388th Range Sqd., Genesis Mission, NASA
Two days ago, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day featured the mangled wreck of some kind of capsule, half-buried in the sand. In the background, two helicopters are parked. The capsule itself looks like it's been cracked open, revealing shiny metal inside and hints of some kind of technology. The photo's title is "Flying Saucer Crash Lands in Utah Desert."

Is this the Big One, the kind of photo Fox Mulder would wait a lifetime to see made public? Is it a crashed alien spacecraft?

No, it's just a little gag by NASA. The photo's caption reads: "The year was 2004, and no space aliens were involved. 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. The unexpectedly hard landing at over 300 kilometers per hour occurred because the parachutes did not open as planned." Apparently, the two helicopters in the photo were involved in chasing down the capsule as it came tumbling through the atmosphere toward its final destination.

Genesis was a big deal for NASA in a lot of ways: it was the first time they'd returned a sample from space to Earth since the final 1972 Apollo mission, and the first time they'd collected a sample from beyond the Moon. The sample itself consisted of particles of solar wind, which allowed NASA scientists to gain insight into the formation of the Sun. According to their research, our planet may have formed from "different solar nebula materials than those that created the sun." NASA's come a long way since the Genesis mission. For starters, its OSIRIS-REx mission is currently on schedule to harvest samples from the asteroid Bennu, while the Curiosity Rover has made huge strides in understanding Mars.

We appreciate NASA's attempt at making a flying saucer joke, but we know one group of people who won't think it's funny: people who think NASA is covering up evidence of alien life. They're probably going to see this article's headline and start reading the first letter of each sentence to see if there's a hidden message.

(Spoiler: don't waste your time.)
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