John Hollenhorst ReportingThe Genesis crash drew gasps, groans and even tears at the University of Utah today. It was one of hundreds of places around the country where people gathered to watch the proceedings on live TV. A sizeable crowd here saw the crash happen. And for one family it was especially devastating.
It was big-screen TV with a most unusual show -- an aerial ballet with a surprise ending. Several hundred space buffs watched at Kingsbury Hall. Many were parents with kids, skipping school to see a bit of space history.
Aaron Allen, Univ. of Utah Physics Student: “My daughter and son are both interested in science.”
The anticipation was intense, especially for one family -- the son and grandchildren of Don Burnett. He's NASA's top scientist on the Genesis project. As the spacecraft came into view, the crowd cheered. But when they realized it had crashed, cheers turned to groans.
Paul Hoffman appeared to be sobbing. As he saw his father's project jammed in the mud, a tear rolled down his cheek.
Paul Hoffman, Son of Genesis Scientist: "It's certainly not the way we would like to have seen it to have ended today." Q: From a personal standpoint, this must be devastating. A: "It's crushing. This is 17 years of our family's life. More than that, 19 years, 1983. So this is it. This has been his dream. And this has been the keystone to his career and everything that he's wanted to do since he was my kids' age. And this is it. You don't get a second chance."
The Hoffman grandchildren shed some tears too. A few rows back Aaron Allen wasn't sorry he'd brought his own kids.
Aaron Allen: “I think it’s actually quite valuable to recognize that science isn’t always right. The plans don’t always go. But there’s something you can get out of it no matter what.”
Paul Hoffman is hopeful his father's team can recover useable data. They had contingency plans for a hard-landing situation. Unfortunately, he says Genesis hit eight times harder than their worst-case scenario.