Dr. Peter M.M. Jenniskens

December 21, 2006

“Airborne and Ground-Based Studies of Meteor and Sample-Return-Capsule Entry Radiation”


This cooperative agreement is to support field campaigns, called Hyperseed MAC, to study carbon ablation and shock chemistry in the atmospheric impact of natural meter-sized asteroids, as mimicked by the reentry of the sample return capsules of the GENESIS (Sept. 08, 2004), STARDUST (Jan. 15, 2006), and HAYABUSA (June 2007) missions. These are the first hypervelocity sample return missions since the Apollo era, with Stardust exceeding Apollo entry speeds. Hyperseed will make the SRC reentry into a systems-level field test of the performance of thermal protection materials, and into a controlled experiment to test key processes in the exogenous delivery of prebiotic compounds. The Principal Investigator of this cooperative agreement will alsobe the main logistics coordinator, by arranging for available research aircraft, assembling capable researchers and suitable instruments, and contributing to the measurements and data analysis. Measurements will be made of the shock’s radiative heat flux, the body surface temperature, ablation rate, the yield and nature of ablated carbon compounds, and the nature of products from their interaction with the atmosphere.  The measurements will be interpreted by models and laboratory experiments developed for the design of thermal protection materials, which will now be applied to the exogenous delivery of organic matter in meter-sized asteroids.This agreement also includes ongoing NASA-sponsored efforts for instrument development and research into the dynamics of meteoroid streams, study of meteor showers, and spectroscopy of meteors.