Hollywood To The Rescue Of Space Probe

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Some Hollywood stunt pilots are helping NASA ensure a three-year, $200 million experiment doesn't shatter on the floor of the Utah desert. Somehow, NASA designed an experiment that can withstand the rigors of launch, spend three years in space and survive re-entry, but might not survive a parafoil landing. The Genesis probe carries almost-pure silicon plates to gather solar wind particles, which (scientists hope) will give clues to the origins of the universe. The plates are fragile, so to soften the return to Earth when the probe releases a capsule full of them on Sept. 8, the plan is to grab the parachuting capsule in flight and lower it gently to the ground with a helicopter -- and they've been testing it. Dan Rudert, who's flown for such films as The Hulk and S.W.A.T., successfully made a practice snatch at about 7,000 feet and brought a stand-in capsule to Michael Army Air Field last week. Rudert said he didn't know what to make of the NASA plan when he was first approached. "You picture flames coming off of it as it's coming in," he told The Salt Lake Tribune.