Nasa scientists are getting very excited about one of their probes which has spent its time gathering dust. It iss not what you would normally want a piece of cutting-edge space technology to do but that was exactly the purpose of its seven-year mission.
The spacecraft, Stardust, is bringing back particles from the comet, Wild 2 – samples which Nasa hopes will reveal secrets about the origins of our solar system.
Some of the matter will be older than the sun. Former Stardust project manager Dr Ken Atkins said:
“The scientists believe what they are looking at in getting these particles back from Comet Wild 2 is a virtual time capsule looking back at something like four and half billion years.”
All eyes are on the Utah desert. That is where the probe is expected to touch down today after surging through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Its treasure trove of cosmic particles will be released from the main body of the craft and float down gently attached to parachutes – it is hoped.