A Review of Infrasound and Seismic Observations of Sample Return Capsules Since the End of the Apollo Era in Anticipation of the OSIRIS-REx ArrivalOPEN ACCESS 

Elizabeth A. Silber, Daniel C. Bowman and Sarah Albert

Atmosphere 2023, 14(10), 1473, Review article


“Advancements in space exploration and sample return technology present a unique opportunity to leverage sample return capsules (SRCs) towards studying atmospheric entry of meteoroids and asteroids. Specifically engineered for the secure transport of valuable extraterrestrial samples from interplanetary space to Earth, SRCs offer unexpected benefits that reach beyond their intended purpose. As SRCs enter the Earth’s atmosphere at hypervelocity, they are analogous to naturally occurring meteoroids and thus, for all intents and purposes, can be considered artificial meteors. Furthermore, SRCs are capable of generating shockwaves upon reaching the lower transitional flow regime, and thus can be detected by strategically positioned geophysical instrumentation. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) SRC is one of only a handful of artificial objects to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere from interplanetary space since the end of the Apollo era and it will provide an unprecedented observational opportunity. This review summarizes past infrasound and seismic observational studies of SRC re-entries since the end of the Apollo era and presents their utility towards the better characterization of meteoroid flight through the atmosphere”