Extraction and microanalysis of cosmic dust captured during sample return missions: laboratory simulations

Graham, G.A.; Kearsley, A.T.; Butterworth, A.L.; Bland, P.A.; Burchell, M.J.; McPhail, D.S.; Chater, R.; Grady, M.M. and Wright, Ian (2004). Extraction and microanalysis of cosmic dust captured during sample return missions: laboratory simulations. Advances in Space Research, 34(11) pp. 2292–2298.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asr.2003.07.066

Abstract

Particles of cometary and asteroidal origin collected at source using dedicated capture cell technologies will be returned to Earth within the next 8 years. Furthermore, coincidental capture of interplanetary dust particles will occur on the exposed surfaces of the Genesis spacecraft. Laboratory simulations using both light-gas-gun and Van de Graaff accelerators have impacted dust analogues at velocities ranging from 5 km s−1 to ca. 72 km s−1 into comparable silicon and aerogel targets. Analysis of the impacts on silicon has shown complete spallation of impact residues for silicate projectiles of 38–53 μm in diameter, however craters formed by 1 μm iron projectiles show that near-intact residues can be preserved. An olivine grain embedded in aerogel has been characterized in situ using Raman micro-spectroscopy. Monte Carlo simulations and laboratory experiments have shown that analytical scanning electron microscopy can also be used to characterize embedded grains. Development of a novel particle extraction methodology using a 266 nm UV laser micro-dissection system has resulted in the recovery of an olivine grain. The extracted particle was then “cleaned up” using focused ion beam (FIB) milling to remove excess aerogel that was fused on the grain surface.

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