News from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and from JSC

Most of us were at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston during the week before last. It was the most exciting LPSC that I’ve attended, with reporting of new and highly anticipated results from Genesis and Stardust. We also had a meeting among scientists who are interested in participating in the Stardust Interstellar Preliminary Examination. We expected perhaps a dozen scientists — instead more than fifty attended — standing room only! We discussed the progress in extraction of tracks, schedules for instrument time, details about sample holders, and many other topics. The highlight was the report from Frank Brenker and his colleagues on their synchrotron x-ray microscope analysis of the first track extracted from the Interstellar Collector. This was an extremely important result because it demonstrates that we can unambiguously recognize ejecta from impacts from the spacecraft. This will be particularly important for the analysis if impacts in the aluminum foils. I also reported these results to CAPTEM on the weekend after the LPSC.

Zack is back at JSC this week, extracting more tracks from the Interstellar Collector, and Dave will be there the following week. We are working in teams of three, with one of the Berkeley folks physically at JSC working with Ron or Jack in the Cosmic Dust Lab, and one physically at Berkeley but “virtually” at JSC through webcam and the speakerphone. The webcam at JSC is really amazing, with incredible resolution and zoom capability, so it’s almost like being there. In fact, this is an ideal arrangement — we can check each other (following our seven-page procedure) but also maintain a minimum number of people in the clean room. The cleanliness of of any clean room is determined by the number of people in the room.
We are starting with a blank keystone, then will do two off-normal tracks, for a total of five, then will go on to interstellar candidates! We’re excited!

— Andrew