NASA explorer is poised to set sail Monday, July 30 on a mission
to catch the solar wind and then return to Earth with a representative
sampling of the primordial stuff that seeded the solar system.
Some 4.6 billion
years after an interstellar cloud of gas, dust and ice collapsed
and spawned the Sun and its attendant planets, the spacecraft
will blast off in late July for a distant space harbor where conditions
remain much the same as those at hand when the solar system formed.
tossed off the turbulent sun then will be snatched up before the
spacecraft swings back by Earth, flinging a sample return capsule
toward a daring helicopter recovery over the Utah desert in September
prize: A cache of interplanetary matter that could enable 21st
century researchers to decipher the elemental and isotopic make-up
of the original solar nebula.