The collectors returned by the Genesis mission contain solar wind atoms which can be analyzed in sophisticated laboratory instruments to measure very precisely the composition of the Sun. Since the Sun contains >99% of the mass in the solar system, knowing its elemental and isotopic composition is a good average measure of the composition of the solar nebula at the time when the planets were forming. Scientists already have rocks from the Moon, Mars and the asteroids and dust specks from comets. Genesis’ solar data should allow new insights in tracing the chemical evolution of diverse planetary samples, most of which came from a common starting material, the solar nebula.
Genesis samples are the first extraterrestrial samples returned to Earth by NASA since the Apollo program, which ended in the early 1970s.