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Navigating Celestial Currents

Math leads spacecraft on joy rides through the solar system

By
12:00pm, April 12, 2005

Last April, the Genesis spacecraft began its journey home. It had been parked out in space collecting solar particles for 2 years. Yet even though its job was done, Genesis didn't head straight home. Instead, it took a 3-million-mile detour, swinging past Earth to do a loop de loop around a distant point before flying back to Earth.

This circuitous route was no accident. The spacecraft had hopped aboard the interplanetary superhighway, a network of tubes crisscrossing through the solar system. By jumping from one tube to another at the solar syste

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