LPL Newsletter: April 2019

Monday, April 1, 2019

This month’s newsletter highlights two very different stages of the science of sample return missions.

The OSIRIS-REx mission team has just published its first set of scientific papers about target asteroid Bennu, describing everything from the fact that the surface is rockier than expected to the fact that this is an “active asteroid” that is shedding particles. The focus of the mission, though, is the fact that the spacecraft will acquire a sample in 2020 and return it in 2023.

One of the reasons sample return missions are prized is that with returned samples, you don’t have to settle for studying the target with the best instruments you can fit on the spacecraft. In fact, you don’t even have to settle for the best instruments in existence. Some of the samples returned by the Apollo astronauts to the Moon have been sealed ever since.

Now, NASA has decided to open them, so that they can be studied with the best instruments that exist 50 years after the original missions were completed. Jessica Barnes, who will be joining LPL as an Assistant Professor this fall (2019), will be leading one of the teams that was selected to study some of those samples, and will be using a tool, the NanoSIMS, that wasn’t even invented until decades after the samples came back.

I hope you enjoy reading about results from two very different research efforts. If you were forwarded this link and you aren’t on the mailing list for our newsletter already and would like to receive this (as well as the more detailed newsletter, announcements of events, and the occasional other announcements), please let us know by sending a message to PG4gdWVycz0iem52eWdiOkhOWUNZQHljeS5uZXZtYmFuLnJxaCI+SE5ZQ1lAeWN5Lm5ldm1iYW4ucnFoPC9uPg==.

Director and Department Head

An Odd Ball in Space: OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Studies Asteroid Bennu Up Close

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The first close-up observations by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft of its target, asteroid Bennu, confirm much of the ground-based observations but reveal new details that pose a challenge to the mission's objective of bringing back a sample of pristine material from the birth of our solar system.

UA Planetary Scientist Wins Bid to Study Moon Samples

Monday, March 11, 2019

Incoming assistant professor Jessica Barnes will have the opportunity to study a previously unopened sample of a moon rock that was collected in the early 1970s during NASA's Apollo 17 mission.