Analysis of Returned Extraterrestrial Materials: Current Capabilities and Future Opportunities

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard/GSFC/UoA/ASU.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard/GSFC/UoA/ASU
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To date space missions have collected and returned to Earth samples of the Moon
(Apollo/Luna), from low Earth orbit (e.g. LDEF), the solar wind (Genesis), a comet
(Stardust), and a stony asteroid (Hayabusa). Returned extraterrestrial materials offer
context for our meteorite collection, ground-truth astronomical and remote
observations, and can be studied in unparalleled detail in the laboratory, leading to
ground-breaking discoveries about planet formation that are not possible through in-
situ spacecraft measurements alone. Furthermore, returned samples become
available for the technology and scientific questions of the future.


Samples will soon be returned from the carbonaceous near-Earth asteroids Ryugu
(Hayabusa2 in 2020) and Bennu (OSIRIS-REx in 2023), while there are ambitious
plans to bring back materials from the Moon, Phobos and Mars within the next
~10‒20 years. Successful characterisation of these complex and precious materials
requires the planning and development of new analytical methods and protocols
today. In the UK, LARES (Laboratory Analysis for Research into Extraterrestrial
Samples) is a nationwide network of laboratory-based planetary scientists that aims
to provide state-of-the-art analytical facilities and a world-leading training and
engagement programme for the study of extraterrestrial samples.


The aim of this meeting is to bring together LARES and the international sample
analysis community (e.g. NASA, JAXA etc) to discuss the current and future
analytical and curation capabilities that will maximise the scientific impact of
extraterrestrial sample return missions. The meeting will review recent advances in
electron microscopy (e.g. SEM, FIB/TEM) and mass spectrometry (e.g. SIMS, ICP-
MS), highlight the capabilities and upcoming opportunities at synchrotron facilities,
and explore new pioneering techniques (e.g. nano-IR, atom probe, magnetic
properties) and their application to extraterrestrial materials. The meeting will engage
the scientific community in sample return missions, strengthen collaboration between
UK and international research institutions, and identify the skills and techniques
required for the future success of space exploration.

 

Ashley King (Open)

Natasha Almeida  (NHM)

Luke Daly (Glasgow)

Leon Hicks (Leicester)

Natasha Stephen (Plymouth)

Romain Tartese (Manchester)

Penny Wozniakiewicz (Kent)

 

More information to follow

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