How To Hunt A Space Rock


Peter Willis and his team of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., had a problem. Actually, more like they had a solution that needed a problem. Confused? Let’s let Peter give it a shot…

“My team and I came up with a new lab on a chip,” said Willis, a scientist at JPL’s Microdevices Lab. “It essentially miniaturizes an automated sample processing and analysis instrument that could be put aboard future spacecraft and sent to distant planets, moons and asteroids. One challenge we have is finding new and interesting samples to try our chip on.”

The team had already gone into the field in quest of unique samples. Among their previous expeditions, they had hunted down trilobite fossils at the lava field in Amboy, Calif., and gathered samples from a hydrothermal vent near Yosemite National Park. But Willis and crew knew that when testing something destined for another world, it is good to try it on something not of this world. What they needed was a sign from above. On the evening of Aug. 21, 2012, a large fireball that turned night into day was reported over a mountain range halfway between Reno and Salt Lake City. By convention, the meteorite was named after the nearest town or prominent geographic feature.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-320

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