Apollo Sample News
Ryan Zeigler, Apollo Curator
Juliane Gross, Deputy Apollo Curator
Volume 2 No. 2 • September 2020
Welcome to 2020, the year that won't end! Every time I write a new update for one of these newsletters, my first step is to look back at what I wrote in the previous newsletter, in order to judge where to begin. The first paragraph from the spring newsletter stands out to me:
Well, we made it through 2019, bruised but not broken. The 50th anniversary of the Apollos 11 and 12 missions, the opening of the first new Apollo samples in 25 years as part of the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program (ANGSA), and the 50th anniversary of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference made for a busy, hectic, and exciting year. Hopefully that continues, albeit at a statelier pace.
Boy was I wrong about what was to come.
As you are no doubt aware, both from the experiences in your own lives, as well as the information that Francis has provided in the Astromaterials Curator update in this newsletter, this has been an exceptionally challenging year for the staff in the curation office here at Johnson Space Center (JSC). We have been in a mandatory work-from-home situation since March 18th with restricted access to the labs for the two weeks before that. There is no clear indication when we might be allowed back into the labs; JSC has announced that the work-from-home situation will not change until October 19th at the earliest, but that is a "no return earlier than" date that is likely to shift to even later in the year.
Keep in mind that the current situation is the latest in a series of events over the past few years that has kept us out of the labs, including 1.5 months for the government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019, as well as 1.5 months for Hurricane Harvey in late 2017. In total we have been "locked out" of the labs for various reasons for: (1) the past 6 months continuously; (2) 7.5 of the past 22 months (34%); and (3) 9 of the past 38 months (24%).
Nevertheless, I want to assure everyone that the lunar labs (as well as the other labs) are still being well monitored and maintained and that the samples are all safe and secure, including the newly opened ANGSA core-sample, as well as the samples in the remote storage facility.
If you are waiting on samples to be allocated, I apologize we are unable to give you a clear indication of when you might be able to expect the allocation of those samples. No processing or allocation of lunar samples has been possible since March (6 months), with no way to provide an accurate estimate of when it can commence. I can say for certain that as soon as we are allowed back in the labs, we will begin processing and allocating samples as quickly as possible (without compromising the integrity of the collection of course). Additionally, we have a very detailed plan on how to proceed with processing once we are allowed back into the labs, one that will attempt to get a subset of the expected samples to all PIs as quickly as possible, with a special emphasis on getting samples out for projects for students and postdocs.
As Francis has already explained, because of the backlog of Apollo samples that need to be allocated (none of the samples from the Spring CAPTEM requests have been processed), as well as the uncertainty of when we might be allowed to begin processing samples again, we will not be soliciting new lunar sample requests in the Fall of 2020. As soon as we know more about the timing of when we are back to work, we will update the community.
So, on behalf of my Deputy Apollo Sample Curator (Juliane Gross), the lunar sample processing team (Andrea Mosie, Linda Watts, Jeremy Kent, Charis Krysher, and Lacey Costello), as well as the two dozen other folks who enable the care and allocation of the Apollo samples, I want to wish you all well, and encourage you to contact me or other members of the team if you have specific questions, comments, or concerns.