Return to Astromaterials Curation Main Page


What's New?
Welcome to the Home Page for the Curator for Astromaterials Samples at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Our mission is to protect, preserve, and distribute for study samples from the Moon, Mars, and interplanetary space in support of solar system exploration. These sample collections include:

Picture of a large rock on the Moon

Lunar rocks and regolith returned by the Apollo missions

Picture of a gloved hand picking up an Antarctic meteorite

Meteorites recovered by the U.S. Antarctic Search for Meteorites

Picture of a microscopic dust particle from space

Dust particles collected from the stratosphere

Picture of the Long Duration Exposure Facility in space

Space-exposed surfaces retrieved from satellites or spacecraft

Image of Genesis Space Craft

Solar Wind samples collected during the exposer of ultrapure materials to the solar wind at the Earth-Sun L1 point

Image of aerogel collectors

Cometary and Interstellar samples collected from Comet and Interstellar dust stream

Maintaining samples in a pure state is critical to extracting scientific information from these unique, and often very small, samples. Equally important, however, is making the collection available for scientific study and education, because it is these activities that give the samples their true value. It is also wise to reserve portions of samples for future studies that will become possible with new or improved ideas and techniques.

Attacking the challenges of curating rocks and soils from Mars. The curatorial staff plans to build on past experience in preparing for the technological challenges of the future. Anticipated challenges include improvements in materials used to touch samples, container seals, manipulation and storage of samples at low temperature and low pressure, cost effieiencies in managing the samples, and rapid, innovative distribution of samples and sample information to scientists and educators. Rocks, soil and ices from Mars and comets pose special challenges to collect, transport, store and study under their natural environmental conditions of extremely low temperatures and pressures. For comets, temperatures of 130 K (-226 F) and vacuum conditions may be appropriate; for Mars 230 K ( -46 F) and a pressure equal to only 1% of Earth's may be required. Future samples may come from: Moon, Mars, Space Station Cosmic Dust Collection Facility, Space-exposed hardware, comets, asteroids, other stratospheric dust samples such as volcanic ash, and special Earth samples.