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Science Museum Space Seminar Series 3: Sample Return Missions and Analysis

This season of seminars looks at sample return missions, how they are conducted, what we can learn from them and how the sophistication of their science and engineering can be conveyed to museum audiences.

In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts collected rocks from the surface of the Moon and brought them to Earth. This was the first time samples gathered from another Solar System body had been carried to our planet. By the end of Apollo, 382kg of lunar rocks had been collected.

Further specimens from the Moon were gathered by the Soviet Union's Luna robotic missions in the 1970s. There was then a pause. Nothing further was collected from our solar system neighbours until 1999 when NASA's Stardust mission gathered dust from a comet. And then, Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft series performed sample returns from two asteroids: 25143 Itokawa in 2010 and 162173 Ryugu in 2020. In 2023, OSIRIS-REx delivered pieces of the 101955 Bennu asteroid to waiting scientists in the Utah desert.

Further sample return missions are now being planned by space agencies for the Moon, Mars, its Phobos moon, and for asteroids. This season of seminars looks at sample return missions, how they are conducted, what we can learn from them and how the sophistication of their science and engineering can be conveyed to museum audiences.

We shall hear from investigating scientists who plan the missions and study the specimens and also from curators who have staged special exhibitions to highlight these extraterrestrial specimens and their spacecraft. The Space Seminars Series are jointly organised by JAXA Space Education Centre. 

Sessions

1. Moon (Apollo)  

31 October 2023, 12.30–14.00 GMT

Chair 

Heather Bennett, Science Museum

Speakers

  • Doug Millard, Science Museum
  • Ryan Zeigler, NASA Johnson
  • Teasel Muir-Harmony, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
  • Andrea Mosie, NASA Johnson
  • Katherine Joy, University of Manchester

This session has ended.

2. Asteroids (Hayabusa2, OSIRIS-REx)

14 November 2023, 12.30–14.00 GMT

Chair

Kate Kitagawa, JAXA Space Education Centre

Speakers

  • Christophe Chaffardon, Cité de l'espace 
  • Masaki Fujimoto, JAXA ISAS 
  • Yuichi Tsuda JAXA ISAS
  • Harold Connolly, Mission Sample Scientist for OSIRIS-REx, Rowan University 

This session has ended.

3. Mars (Future Return Missions)

28 November 2023, 12.30–14.00 GMT

Chair

Elizabeth Tasker, JAXA

Speakers

  • Harold Connolly, Mission Sample Scientist for OSIRIS-Rex, Rowan University 
  • Tomo Usui, JAXA ISAS
  • Christopher Snead, NASA Johnson
  • Tim McCoy, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Register here.

Scheduled dates

Co-organised by