Who thought asteroids were dull, dumb rocks?
There's no doubting the big space story of the coming days - it is the return to Earth of Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft.
The mission visited the asteroid Itokawa in 2005 and acquired some stunning up-close imagery and remote-sensing data. It also made an attempt to grab samples off the potato-shaped object's surface.
The capsule containing those rocky fragments is now hurtling home. The 40cm-wide disc should slam into our atmosphere on Sunday, slowing sufficiently in its fiery descent for a parachute to give it a reasonably soft landing in the Australian Outback at about 1400 GMT.
Hayabusa's seven-year round trip has been quite an adventure. Communications with Earth have been patchy, it lost a small deployable probe, its sample-grab mechanism malfunctioned, and - to cap it all - it's had to limp home because of a severely compromised propulsion system.
No-one really knows if the capsule carries some Itokawa dust or is completely sterile, but most people I think will cheer this mission home. It strikes me Japanese scientists and engineers have already demonstrated remarkable skill in recovering what seemed on many occasions to be an utterly lost cause.
I'll speak more of Hayabusa's return later in the week but I really just wanted to mark your card for the future because we have an exciting year ahead as far as asteroid studies go.
These objects fascinate because they represent the leftovers - the rubble - that were never incorporated into the big planets that now dominate the Solar System. In other words, they're an eye into our past some 4.5 billion years ago.
Both Europe and the US are also planning major encounters.
Earth-based observations had at first classified it as a primitive object, little changed since its formation (a so-called C-type asteroid). Further measurements then spied an unexpectedly high metal composition on its surface, suggesting it might have undergone a greater degree of evolution than previously thought.
Rosetta will just race by. Its main quarry is an unpronounceable comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) which it will meet out near Jupiter in 2014, but the opportunity to test its instruments on this fascinating lump of space rock is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Dr Rita Schulz, Esa's Rosetta project scientist told me:
"Asteroids are all different; you can't just visit one or two and say 'now we know all about the asteroids'. There's such a large variety. We cannot identify, or define, them all from ground-based observations and so we need to visit a whole bunch of asteroids. And they're rather easy to reach because they are in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is much more difficult reach objects that are further away or out of the ecliptic - out of the plane where all the planets lie in."
Rosetta will have all of its remote-sensing instruments switched on - cameras, plasma experiments, magnetometers, dust instruments, radio science experiment, etc. It will nail Lutetia's true state.
It will be fascinating to see if the probe catches any dust as it whizzes by, as the spacecraft carries an atomic force microscope. An AFM was used on Mars by the Phoenix lander, but Rosetta's high-resolution instrument must be the most distant such microscope yet deployed.
The probe will be spending about 12 months at this rock before moving on to Ceres which, at 950km in diameter, is by far the largest and most massive body in the asteroid belt.
It is what they call a "dwarf planet" these days - the same classification we're supposed to use now to describe Pluto.
Their sheer size means gravity has pulled these bodies into a spherical form, Ceres more so than Vesta.
The latter unfortunately has the look of a punctured football, the result of a colossal collision sometime its past that ripped a big chunk out of its south polar region.
The debris from that smash-up was sent far and wide. About one in 20 of the meteorites that falls to Earth is probably a bit of Vesta.
Ceres and Vesta will make for interesting subjects. These really are evolved bodies - objects that have heated up and started to separate into distinct layers.
In the case of Vesta this probably means it has an iron core. For Ceres, scientists don't think it got quite so hot, and it probably retains a lot of water, perhaps in a band of ice deep below the surface.
Like Rosetta, Dawn has a suite of instruments to investigate these rocks' present state and their history. Lead scientist Professor Christopher Russell summed up the mission for me thus:
"The name is a suggestion of what we're trying to do. We're trying to go to the dawn of the Solar System. We're looking at two bodies that were formed right at the beginning, in the first five million years, and that have remained intact. They weren't destroyed; they weren't knocked apart and reassembled. We think when we go there, we'll understand how the building blocks of the Solar System were put together. You could say we'll learn about the childhood of the Solar System."