Robert M. Walker Distinguished Colloquium with Meenakshi Wadhwa on Exploration of the Solar System via Sample Return Missions
The analysis in Earth-based laboratories of lunar samples returned by NASA astronauts during the Apollo program and by the robotic Soviet Luna program in the late 1960s and early 1970s revolutionized our understanding of the Moon and the Earth-Moon system. In the following decades, NASA has returned samples from a comet (Stardust mission) and from the Sun (Genesis mission), and JAXA’s Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 missions have returned samples from two asteroids, Itokawa and Ryugu, respectively. At the time of this talk, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will additionally have returned samples of asteroid Bennu. Samples returned by these robotic missions are also contributing immensely to addressing questions about conditions in the early Solar System, planet formation processes, and the sources of organics and volatiles on planetary bodies. In this talk, Wadhwa will discuss the results and implications of the isotopic analyses in her laboratory of Ryugu samples from JAXA’s recent Hayabusa2 mission. She will additionally touch on future plans to return carefully selected samples from the planet Mars.
Meenakshi Wadhwa holding a lunar meteorite (Photo courtesy of ASU)