“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
So said Charles Dickens at the start of A Tale of Two Cities. Ours is a tale not of two cities, but of one laboratory in three buildings. But Dickens’ description would fit the fall of 2020 for the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. While editing this newsletter, I was reminded by one of our staff that I started a newsletter intro with the same quote in 2011. But I think I get to use Dickens once each decade, in part because I love the quote, and in part because it is the same combination of euphoria and mourning.
This fall was the best of times because, after more than 15 years of planning, proposing, finally getting accepted (that was part of the Fall 2011 newsletter), building, and flying, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft finally sampled the asteroid Bennu. Not only did OSIRIS-REx get a sample, but the sample was so large that there was material leaking out of the sample cannister before it was sealed. As well as the success of OSIRiS-REx, we had three students who successfully completed their careers (with Ph.D. defenses on Zoom), we had seven new graduate students join us, and we had a successful virtual version of The Art of Planetary Science.
But it was the worst of times, too. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that we spent the semester with virtually all of our interactions being virtual, with the associated stress of the lack of human companionship. Moreover, three valued members of the LPL family passed away: Regents' Professor Emeritus Jay Melosh, longtime Senior Research Scientist Lyle Broadfoot, and PTYS alumna Nadine Barlow.
You can read about all these, and more, in this newsletter. Stay safe until we can all meet again in person.