This newsletter contains classifications of 143 new meteorites from the 1997 ANSMET collection. Descriptions are given for 6 meteorites; 2 eucrites, and 4 ordinary chondrites. We don’t expect much excitement from the rest of the 1997 collection. JSC has examined another 100 meteorites to send to the Smithsonian for classification and they appear to be more of the same LL5 shower. However, past experience tells us that there will be some treasures hidden in the remaining samples. Hope rings eternal, but we can’t wait to see the 1998 collection described below.
1998-99 ANSMET Field Season
The target for the 1998-99 ANSMET field season was Graves Nunatak, near the head of the Scott glacier. Field team members consisted of Ralph Harvey, John Schutt, Diane DiMassa, Nancy Chabot, Paul Benoit, Barry Lopez, and Scott Sandford. The field season was short but sweet. Bad weather and airplane availability delayed the teams’ put-in flight by two weeks; and continued bad weather limited the amount of searching that could be done during the remainder. Overall, about 10 days of searching and traversing was all that could be completed, resulting in the recovery of 192 specimens and the exploration of a couple of new icefields in the region. However, the new collection has a lot of potential; observations by the field party suggest that at least 10% of the finds are achondrites (or something equally intriguing). Here’s hoping that we’ll get some better weather when we return to the Graves region in the future.
Smithsonian Hires Collections Manager
The Div. of Meteorites at the Smithsonian has finally hired a permanent collections manager, Linda Welzenbach. She has an M.S. in Geology from Bowling Green State University where she studied carbonate deposition in sedimentary environments. For the past 6 years, she has worked at the National Museum of Natural History, where she assisted in all aspects of the preparation of the Gem and Minerals Galleries of the new Geology, Gems and Mineral Hall. Among her best assets, she brings a strong background in collections management to the Div. of Meteorites. Linda will be responsible for much of the day-to-day operation of the meteorite collection and many of you will probably be corresponding with her in the years to come.
JSC Astromaterials Musical Chairs
Several changes in JSC Astromaterials staff have taken place in the last few months. Of most immediate importance to newsletter readers, MWG Secretary Don Morrison retired from NASA on February 3 and vacated that post and management of the thin section laboratory. We thank Don for stepping into both jobs and helping to keep the minutes, requests, and samples going. Gary Lofgren will manage the thin section lab, at least until a replacement can be found. Faith Vilas has agreed to take over as MWG Secretary starting with the March meeting, so be easy on her as we work out individual responsibilities. Please submit all meteorite requests to the curator and contact either the curator or lab manager for request status.
In response to its strategic position as NASA’s Center of Excellence in Astromaterials, JSC hired geoscientist Carl Agee as the Chief Scientist for Astromaterials. He reports directly to Center Director George Abbey with an overview of curation and research efforts. Carl is leading JSC efforts in planning for Mars sample return and is setting up his lab to continue research in experimental petrology. He was also recently named Acting Astromaterials Curator.
Since Jim Gooding’s departure in 1997, Doug Blanchard had been serving as Acting Astromaterials Curator in addition to his job as Division Chief. Recently he decided to use his considerable experience in planetary science, exploration, and outreach in a new way. Doug has moved to a new job as Deputy Director of Public Affairs at JSC where one of his responsibilities is strategic planning. Now we have a second friend in high places. Gordon McKay is serving as Acting Division Chief while we pursue searches for scientists from outside NASA to fill additional roles in Astromaterials curation and division management.
The Mars Exploration and Discovery programs have kept Astromaterials and NASA’s exploration of the solar system in the news recently. Mars Global Surveyor (launched in 1996) is in mapping orbit and commencing full operation. In December and January the Mars 98 orbiter and lander were launched for encounters with the red planet this summer and fall. The lander will give us the first close up of near-polar regions. Missions are planned to continue every 26 months culminating in launches of sample return missions in 2003 and 2005 for return in 2008. Planning for quarantine and curation of Mars samples is complex and the subject of numerous workshops and advisory committee meetings.
Discovery missions to map and sample bodies in the solar system continue to progress. Lunar Prospector, after demonstrating the existence of ice at both poles, has gone into its extended mission phase. The NEAR mission to orbit and map asteroid Eros, missed orbital insertion in December, but corrected the problem in January and is going back for a second try a year late. The STARDUST mission to return samples of comet Wild 2 and interstellar dust was launched this month for return in 2006. The Genesis mission which will sample and return solar wind particles, will launch in 2001 and return in 2004. The CONTOUR mission will study tour three comets and study their nuclei. JSC has a major role in Astromaterials curation for all Discovery sample return missions and is building a class 10 clean room and designing new systems for these operations. Web sites are listed on the last page of the newsletter.