Francis McCubbin, Astromaterials Curator
Volume 2 No. 2 • September 2020
Welcome to the fourth issue of the Astromaterials Newsletter! The Astromaterials Newsletter is a bi-annual publication produced by the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at NASA Johnson Space Center to inform the sample science community about updates to our policies, collections, and available samples. In particular, the Astromaterials Newsletter will be our exclusive mechanism for announcing new samples or new sample opportunities available to the community across all of our collections, and we publish the Astromaterials Newsletter on the same cadence as the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter.
The primary aim of the Astromaterials Newsletter is to maximize the science returns from our exiting collections through better communication and advertisement of sample availability to the scientific community. A big part of that improved communication is to provide updates to the sample analysis community about what is going on in our labs and at JSC that could impact the collections or the timing of sample allocations. Most importantly, the Astromaterials Newsletter was established to provide a fair and transparent process by which the community receives information about available samples across all our collections.
Impacts on Curation from COVID-19 PandemicOn Wednesday March 18th, the Johnson Space Center moved to a Stage 3 status in response to the pandemic, and we continue to remain at Stage 3 today. Under Stage 3, telework is mandatory for everyone unless their work was deemed mission critical or mission essential. Although monitoring and maintaining the integrity of the Astromaterials samples is mission critical and has continued without pause, sample processing and allocation activities have ceased since March 18. The health and safety of everyone in curation is our top priority, and JSC center management has made it their priority as well. We do not yet have a reasonable estimate for when we can expect to return to JSC for sample processing and allocation, but we will let everyone in the sample science community know as soon as we have an update.
Once we return, we will work as quickly as possible to fill existing sample requests, and we ask for your patience and understanding as we catch up from the hiatus. To avoid exacerbating the existing backlog of unfilled sample requests, we will not be soliciting sample requests for Lunar samples or Antarctic Meteorites in the Fall of 2020. Until we have more information on the timing of our return to work, we will not know whether the next call for Lunar and Meteorite sample requests will occur before or after the typical time of year that we solicit spring requests. However, we will continue to update the sample science community as the situation at JSC evolves. For the collections that accept rolling requests, we will continue to accept the requests, but please keep in mind that there is no sample processing or allocation going on at this time, and there will be a substantial backlog to clear once we return. Consequently, we ask the community to expect substantial delays in receiving their samples. We thank you all for your understanding, and we hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy during these tumultuous times.
Broad updates for the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation OfficeThe Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at JSC recently hired Dr. Nicole Lunning as a Curator. Nicole will focus on the curation of carbonaceous asteroid samples and will work closely with Dr. Kevin Righter and Dr. Keiko Nakamura-Messenger on our current and emerging collections that contain material from carbonaceous asteroids.
Construction activities for the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx curation labs, as well as construction activities related to the upgrade of the ultra-pure water system that will service the new and existing curation labs, have continued throughout the duration of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and construction should be complete by the end of 2020.
Construction activities related to the upgrade of the air-handling system that supplies air to the Genesis labs, as well as to many of the non-clean-room curation labs (e.g., lunar and meteorite thin section, the X-ray Computed Tomography Lab, and the Imaging Raman Lab), has also continued during the COVID-19 Pandemic. That construction is on track for completion in early 2021.
Thank you for reading the Astromaterials News section of the Astromaterials Newsletter, and I wish you and your families a safe and healthy remainder of 2020, and we will be in touch as soon as we have additional information about when sample processing and allocation can recommence.