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Explore the use of neutron computed tomography for structural analysis of extraterrestrial material through dedicated end-to-end studies of the NWA 7034 "Black Beauty" Mars meteorite

Running

Running

Organisational Unit
13 November 2023

Duration: 36 months

Objective

With the joint ESA and NASA endeavour to bring back samples from Mars, we initiated a pilot project to explore how the European Spallation Source (ESS) that is currently under construction could provide world-leading capabilities for non-destructive mapping of the sample interiors with neutron computed tomography (NCT). Specifically, with its high sensitivity to hydrogen, NCT provides highly valuable information on the distribution of hydrated phases and potentially organic matter - and is highly complementary to X-ray tomography (XCT) analyses that is sensitive to heavier elements. When ESS opens later this decade, it will constitute a world leading NCT facility, potentially representing a critical European asset for the analysis of the returned samples from Mars – and any future returned extraterrestrial samples.
The use of NCT is, however, novel to the broader planetary science community (1,2), and its utilisation is not currently baselined as part of the planned early investigations of the samples returned from Mars. In an effort to change that, we will undertake a series of analyses on the, arguably, best analogue available for the samples returned by the Perseverance rover: The NWA 7034 “Black Beauty” Mars meteorite that is believed to originate from the ancient southern highlands of Mars that Perseverance is also sampling (3,4). Our preliminary studies have shown that the combination of NCT and XCT provide intriguing information on the composition of a slice of the meteorite, and we are now ready to expand on this in an effort to both prepare for the Mars meteorite potentially being part of the 'early science' opportunity when ESS opens, and not least to utilise the results of the mapping using existing state-of-the-art neutron facilities to extract material of interest for dedicated followup studies. In effect providing an end-to-end showcase of what NCT can bring to the analysis of near irreplaceable planetary samples.

Contract number
4000143076
OSIP Idea Id
I-2023-04604
Related OSIP Campaign
Open Channel
Main application area
Exploration
Budget
90000€
Explore the use of neutron computed tomography for structural analysis of extraterrestrial material through dedicated end-to-end studies of the NWA 7034 "Black Beauty" Mars meteorite