Science: Back to Earth

When scientists send up research rockets to probe the thin upper atmosphere, they generally kiss their instruments goodbye. Few scientific gadgets survive the impact when the spent rocket hits the earth at thousands-of-miles-per-hour speed. Ordinary parachutes are no help because they are generally torn to shreds before they can waft the instruments to earth.

This week General Electric Co. described something called a "rotochute," developed by Engineer I. B. Benson, to help bring rocket instruments safely back to the ground. It looks like a stocky arrow with two propeller-like blades hinged to the bulbous head that holds the instruments.

The rotochute is carried...

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