It seems only fitting for the Stardust sample return capsule to be traveling so fast as it breaks through Earth's atmosphere that it will leave a white-hot streak across the late-night Nevada sky. After all, it is bringing back comet dust. But the spectacular end to Stardust's seven-year mission will offer more than just a light show. Its 12.8-km.-per-sec. reentry on Jan. 15 will mimic a meteor's, and as the capsule's carbon-based surface ablates, it may offer insight into how life's ...

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