If all goes well, a space probe called Stardust will be the first NASA craft to experience a close encounter with a comet.
When comet Wild-2 swings through our inner solar system in January 2004, Stardust should be there, sweeping up dust particles in the comet's tail and taking samples of its gases. Scientists expect these samples to yield important insights into the evolution of the sun and planets -- and possibly into the origins of life itself.

Click on the links at left to learn more about the NASA mission.