By Roland Pease
BBC science correspondent
The Genesis Space mission, which crashed uncontrolled into the Utah desert last September, still managed to bring back traces of the solar wind.
The Genesis capsule crash-landed in Utah
Researchers at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, say they have been able to extract precious atoms from the smashed remains of the space probe.
The aim of Genesis was to learn about the starting material of the whole Solar System, including planet Earth.
The extraction means the mission objectives may still be achieved.
Lost and found?
After three years in orbit around the Sun, collecting samples of the solar wind, Genesis was supposed to float back to Earth on a parachute, to be caught in mid-air by a helicopter stunt team.
But on 8 September 2004, the parachute failed - and Genesis plummeted down to the Utah desert.
All looked lost. But the US space agency (Nasa) managed to retrieve the wreckage, and recently sent the fragmented collector plates out to labs around the US for analysis.
One team of researchers now says it has identified around 100,000 atoms that could only have come from the Sun.
Professsor Charles Hohenberg, from Washington's Laboratory for Space Sciences, said: "Things are looking good for the mission, particularly for what we do.
"We've made some preliminary measurements and we definitely have solar wind in the abundance we predicted.
"So as far as collecting solar wind samples, the mission was a total success.
"As far as removing surface contamination for the more marginal elements, it may be more difficult now than before, but still techniques are being developed to minimise the contamination," he told BBC News.
The Wasington work raises the hope that once contamination due to the Utah dirt and air has been removed, other teams will start to get an elemental breakdown of the composition of the Sun.