KECK INSTITUTE FOR SPACE STUDIES

       

Cryogenic Comet Sample Return – Compelling New Science vs. Technological Challenges

June 5 - 8, 2017
California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125

Workshop Overview:

Understanding the physical and chemical composition of a comet’s nucleus interior has been one of the holy grails of modern space explorations – from astrophysics of ice and dust through planet formation to the origin of prebiotic matter. Understanding comet’s nuclear composition could provide insight into whether comet impacts may have triggered the origin of life on early Earth. For this reason, a Comet Surface Sample Return (CSSR) Mission has been considered one of the highest priorities in the Planetary Decadal Survey. However, this survey was conducted before the Rosetta spacecraft had its closest rendezvous with the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P/CG) during 2014-2016, which resulted in unprecedented cometary observations and the first attempt to land on a comet by Philae.

Preliminary estimates from Rosetta are that a comet’s nucleus interior could be at ~30 K based on the observation of several supervolatiles such as CO, O2, N2, and Argon. We should emphasize here that Rosetta visited a short-period comet (67P/CG), which would have orbited several times around the Sun. In spite of this fact, the Rosetta observations indicate that the interior of 67P/CG is so cold, making future ultra-low-temperature CNSR a critical and giant step forward.

How deep should an ice core/sample be fetched is one of the science questions that will be evaluated. Another key science question that still remains mostly unanswered is regarding the physical composition of the cometary nucleus ice and the role of mineral (silicate) dust and how it coexists with ice is also unclear. The interstellar ice grain model of silicate dust of a few-microns-size covered with ice. Would these particles be retained in cometary nuclei? Besides the hypervolatiles, it is the contextual relationship of the dust and ice mixture that is key to be preserved during a CNSR mission.

In order to address these fundamental questions, we need to critically evaluate how much below 90 K (the previous baseline) is required for safe return and storage of samples. The selection of a lower temperature may be needed in order to bring the astrophysics, solar system, and origin of life research a large step closer to finding the answers to these questions. During this process, we would also need to evaluate technologies and mission scenarios that are available or needed to be developed in bringing back samples to Earth. We will not discuss/evaluate sample curation facilities and analysis of the returned samples during this study, because constraining the sample acquisition and sample transport would form the basis for the Earth-based technological challenges to be addressed in a future study. Further, there are facilities being built and evaluated for liquid nitrogen temperatures (77K) and extrapolation to lower temperatures will not be a technological road-block.

The goals of this study are twofold:

  1. Evaluate a comet’s nucleus interior based on the new results from the Rosetta mission and determine the science impact tradeoffs for a series of temperature ranges for a cryogenic comet nucleus sample return mission.
  2. Determine the technology needs and technology readiness levels (TRLs) for the various temperature ranges narrowed down in the first goal.

Monday June 5, 2017
Salvatori Seminar Room, South Mudd Building (3rd floor) - Caltech

Short Course:
Comets - Connecting the Origins of Solar Systems to the Origins of Life
Introductory Lectures
(Open to all interested students, researchers and faculty)

Time
Event
Speaker

8:15 - 8:45

Coffee and Refreshments

8:45 - 9:00

Logistics / Introduction

Michele Judd/Team Leads

9:00 - 9:45

Deciphering the Rosetta Stone: What 67P Tells Us About the Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System

Kathrin Altwegg

9:45 - 10:30

From Kuiper Belt to Comet

David Jewitt

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 11:45

Protoplanetary Disks and Cometary Precursors

Geoff Blake

11:45 - 12:30

Morphology and Geology of Short-Period Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Bjorn Davidsson

12:30 - 1:30

Short Course Ends: Informal Lunch is provided outside Salvatori Seminar Room

Invitation-Only Workshop Begins
Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

1:30 - 1:45

Walk to Keck Center, pick up badge and welcome packet, find seat in the Think Tank

1:45 - 2:30

Workshop Logistics and Introduction to KISS

Michele Judd

2:30 - 3:00

Participant Introductions

Michele Judd

3:00 - 3:30

Study vision and goals for this workshop

Team Leads

3:30 - 4:00

Break

4:00 - 4:30

Finalize study vision and workshop goals via plenary discussion

Team Leads

4:30 - 5:15

Present Understanding of Comet Nucleus Physical and Chemical Composition

Murthy Gudipati

5:15 - 5:45 Solicitation of Lightning Talks Team Leads

5:45 - 6:00

Pack up and walk to the Athenaeum

All

6:00

Dinner on the lawn at the Athenaeum


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:00 - 8:30 Institute Opens - FREE THINK TIME

8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments at Keck Center

9:00 - 9:15

Logistics and Team Lead Goals for the Day

Michele Judd and
Team Leads

9:15 - 10:00

Technology Challenges and Readiness Levels for Cryogenic Comet Nucleus Sample Return Missions

Paul Backes

10:00 - 10:30

Lightning Talks (2)

TBD by participants

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 11:30

Selection of Breakout Groups and Topics

All

11:30 - 12:30

Breakout Groups Meet

Groups

12:30 - 2:00

Group Picture and Lunch at the Athenaeum

2:00 - 2:45

Report outs from breakout groups (15 mins each)

Groups

2:45 - 3:30

Lightning Talks (3)

TBD by participants

3:30 - 4:00

Break

4:00 - 4:15

Selection of Breakout Groups and Topics

All

4:15 - 5:30

Breakout Groups Meet

Groups

5:30 - 7:30

POSTER SESSION and Informal food truck dinner at the Keck Center
(dinner starts at 6:30 pm)


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:00 - 8:30 Institute Opens - FREE THINK TIME

8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments at Keck Center

9:00 - 9:15

Logistics and Team Lead Goals for the Day

Michele Judd and
Team Leads

9:15 - 9:45

Report outs from breakout groups (10 mins each)

Groups

9:45 - 10:30

Comet Subsurface Ice Composition: Amorphous, Crystalline or Clathrate?

Multiple Speakers

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 11:15

Lightning talks (1)

TBD by participants

11:15 - 11:30

Selection of Breakout Groups and Topics

All

11:30 - 12:30

Breakout Groups Meet

Groups

12:30 - 2:00

Lunch on your own

2:00 - 2:30

FREE THINK TIME (individual, or self organizing small groups)

All

2:30 - 3:30

Breakout Groups Meet (continued)

All

3:30 - 4:00

Break

4:00 - 4:45

Report outs from breakout groups (15 mins each)

Groups

4:45 - 5:30

Plenary Discussion, selection of final breakout groups

All

5:30 Pack up and walk to Athenaeum

6:00

Dinner at the Athenaeum (with spouses and significant others)


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Keck Center - Think Tank, Room 155

Time
Event
Speaker
8:00 - 8:30 Institute Opens - FREE THINK TIME

8:30 - 9:00

Coffee and Refreshments at Keck Center

9:00 - 9:15

Logistics and Team Lead Goals for the Day

Michele Judd and
Team Leads

9:15 - 10:30

Breakout Groups

All

10:30 - 11:00

Break

11:00 - 12:30

Breakout Groups

All

12:30 - 2:00

Lunch at the Athenaeum

2:00 - 3:30

Open Discussion of Breakout Group Recommendations and Group Feedback

All

3:30 - 4:00

Break

4:00 - 4:45

Interim study activities and assignments - Group Discussion

All

4:45 - 5:00

Workshop Closeout

Michele Judd

5:00

Workshop concludes


Workshop Participants:

  • Katharina Altwegg - University of Bern
  • Guillaume Avice – Caltech
  • Paul Backes – JPL
  • Geoff Blake – Caltech
  • Mathieu Choukroun – JPL
  • Björn Davidsson – JPL
  • Kostas Giapis - Caltech
  • Murthy Gudipati – JPL
  • Aurélie Guilbert-Lepoutre – CNRS-UTINAM
  • Bastian Gundlach - TU-Braunschweig
  • Bryana Henderson – JPL
  • Sona Hosseini - JPL
  • Man-To Hui – UCLA
  • David Jewitt – UCLA
  • Yoonyoung Kim – Seoul National University
  • Scott Moreland – JPL
  • Aaron Parness – JPL
  • Neal Turner – JPL
  • Quanzhi Ye – Caltech
  • Ed Young - UCLA
  • Kris Zacny – Honeybee Robotics

     

  • Short Course Presentations

    Katharina Altwegg
    University of Bern

    Deciphering the Rosetta Stone: What 67P Tells Us About the Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System
    (4.7 MB .pdf)
    (video)

    Geoff Blake
    Caltech

    Protoplanetary Disks & Cometary Precursors
    (40.7 MB .pdf)
    (video)

    Björn J. R. Davidsson
    JPL/Caltech

    Morphology and Geology of Short-Period Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
    (4.6 MB .pdf)
    (video)

    David Jewitt
    UCLA

    From Kuiper Belt to Comet
    (14.3 MB .pdf)
    (video)


    Workshop Presentations

    Katharina Altwegg
    University of Bern
    H2O, HDO and D2O
    (553 KB .pdf)
    Paul Backes
    JPL
    Technology Challenges and Readiness Levels for a Cryogenic Comet Nucleus Sample Return Mission
    (1.95 MB .pdf)
    Murthy S. Gudipati
    JPL
    Present Understanding of Comet Nucleus Physical and Chemical Composition
    (14 MB .pdf)

    Aurélie Guilbert-Lepoutre
    CNRS-UTINAM

    Heat input, diffusion and retention
    (34 MB .pdf)

    Bastian Gundlach
    TU-Braunschweig

    Physical properties of cometary analogue materials
    (2.25 MB .pdf)

    Kris Zacny
    Honeybee Robotics

    Comet strength properties
    (1.5 MB .pdf)