Advanced Curation of Astromaterials for Planetary ScienceOPEN ACCESS 

Francis M. McCubbin, Christopher D. K. Herd, Toru Yada, Aurore Hutzler, Michael J. Calaway, Judith H. Allton, Cari M. Corrigan, Marc D. Fries, Andrea D. Harrington, Timothy J. McCoy, Julie L. Mitchell, Aaron B. Regberg, Kevin Righter, Christopher J. Snead, Kimberly T. Tait, Michael E. Zolensky, Ryan A. Zeigler

Space Science Reviews
November 2019, 215:48


“Just as geological samples from Earth record the natural history of our planet, astromaterials hold the natural history of our solar system and beyond. Astromaterials acquisition and curation practices have direct consequences on the contamination levels of astromaterials and hence the types of questions that can be answered about our solar system and the degree of precision that can be expected of those answers. Advanced curation was developed as a cross-disciplinary field to improve curation and acquisition practices in existing astromaterials collections and for future sample return activities, including meteorite and cosmic dust samples that are collected on Earth. These goals are accomplished through research and development of new innovative technologies and techniques for sample collection, handling, characterization, analysis, and curation of astromaterials. In this contribution, we discuss five broad topics in advanced curation that are critical to improving sample acquisition and curation practices, including (1) best practices for monitoring and testing of curation infrastructure for inorganic, organic, and biological contamination; (2) requirements for storage, processing, and sample handling capabilities for future sample return missions, along with recent progress in these areas; (3) advancements and improvements in astromaterials acquisition capabilities on Earth (i.e., the collection of meteorites and cosmic dust); (4) the importance of contamination knowledge strategies for maximizing the science returns of sample-return missions; and (5) best practices and emerging capabilities for the basic characterization and preliminary examination of astromaterials. The primary result of advanced curation research is to both reduce and quantify contamination of astromaterials and preserve the scientific integrity of all samples from mission inception to secure delivery of samples to Earth-based laboratories for in-depth scientific analysis. Advanced curation serves as an important science-enabling activity, and the collective lessons learned from previous spacecraft missions and the results of advanced curation research will work in tandem to feed forward into better spacecraft designs and enable more stringent requirements for future sample return missions and Earth-based sample acquisition.”