Cold curation of pristine astromaterials: insights from the Tagish Lake meteorite
organic compounds, chondrites (meteorites), solar wind, regolith, interplanetary dust
The curation and handling of volatile-bearing astromaterials is of prime importance in current and future plans for sample return missions to targets containing organic compounds, ices, or other volatile components. We report on the specific curation constraints required for the preservation of the Tagish Lake meteorite, a C2 ungrouped chondrite that contains significant concentrations of organic matter, including compounds of prebiotic interest or volatile in character, and which was recovered from a frozen lake surface a few days after its fall. Here we review the circumstances of the meteorite’s handling, its complement of intrinsic and contaminant organic compounds, and an unusual reaction between some of the specimens and the Al foil in which they were enclosed. From our results we derive the requirements for curation of the meteorite, and describe a specialized facility that enables its curation and handling. The Subzero Facility for Curation of Astromaterials consists of a purified Ar glove box enclosed within a freezer chamber, and enables investigations relevant to curation of samples at or below -10 °C. We provide several recommendations based on insights obtained from the commissioning and initial use of the facility that are relevant to collection of freshly fallen meteorites, curation of volatile-bearing meteorites and other astromaterials, and planning and implementation of curation plans for future sample return missions to volatile-bearing targets.
Herd, C. K., Hilts, R. W., Skelhorne, A. W., & Simkus, D. N. (2016). Cold curation of pristine astromaterials: Insights from the Tagish Lake meteorite. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 51(3), 499-519. doi:10.1111/maps.12603
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