COMET PROBE HUNTS FOR SEEDS OF LIFE

An international space probe set to launch Thursday morning won't just take the closest look yet at the core of a comet. It may shed light on the origin of life on Earth.A series of recent studies have suggested that comets may have brought water and amino acids -- the building blocks of life -- to Earth billions of years ago. But that's all theoretical. Scientists don't yet have direct proof that comets really carry these materials. Only a couple of probes have ever seen comets up close, after all.Rosetta, the European Space Agency craft scheduled to lift off Thursday from a launching pad in French Guyana, could dramatically augment the available evidence. If it works as planned, Rosetta will be the first probe to land on a comet's surface. The samples it takes from the soil and atmosphere of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko should determine whether these interplanetary streakers contain the chemical precursors to bacteria, plants and people.My Wired News article has details.

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