BRITAIN is to launch a spacecraft next year in a mission to ambush a comet and unlock mysteries of the universe.
UK scientists and engineers will design and build the mother-ship in the first bid to track down and map a space rock in 3D.
Experts from Thales Alenia Space UK based in Bristol and Harwell, Oxon, will create the “Comet Chaser” craft after the firm landed the contract.
It will transport two 2ft long Japanese Space Agency probes and orbit — possibly for years — until astronomers pinpoint a target.
It will then be sent on an intercept course, releasing the probes to make close fly-bys.
They will beam information back to the main craft. The ambush tactic, likely to take only hours, has never been tried.
Experts believe data gathered could help answer how the Solar System formed 4.6billion years ago.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said she was proud UK experts were working on the Comet Interceptor programme.
She said: “Their incredible work will not only further our understanding of the evolution of comets but help unlock the mysteries of the universe.”
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