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Primitive Matter

 

 

This analysis of a material comtempory with the origin of the Solar System leads to the determination of physical conditions, molecular and isotopic elementary compositions but also the kinetics of the protoplanetary nebula evolution until the protoplanetary bodies accretion. IAS developed a program of cometary grains collection with a controlled origin (experiment  COMET/MIR 99) and laboratory analysis  of primitive extraterrestrial matter  (micrometeorites and meteorites, stratospheric grains). Particularly, we have developed microscopic grains micro handling technics, and non destructive analysis by X and IR spectroscopy, using the synchrotron radiation (LURE, ESRF), and by Raman spectroscopy. We are also involved in the data processing of the first data from the VIMS instrument, included in the payload of the Cassini/Huygens mission ; This last one is devoted to the intensive exploration of Saturn system, where numerous parts (planet, satellites rings) have properties that have not evolved a lot from their origin.

An importyant part of our activity is linked to the preparation of the  Rosetta  mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) : launched in february 2004, it will realise a rendez-vous with the nucleus of the periodic
Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet to perform an intensive study of the material and the cometary formation and evolution process, by orbital and in-situ observation, from an heliocentric distance of 3 AU to the perihelion (1 AU) : an orbiter will allow the observation of the nucleus from a distance of several cometary radii, while a lander will be droped at 3 AU to land on the nucleus and perform in-situ observation  and samples analysis. Rosetta has the potential to identify, in its diversity, the whole set of the cometary nucleus components (grains, ices, organics), traces from the original Solar System material. The participation of our team will be an important contribution to this identification, by remote spectral imaging (VIRTIS, and grains analysis (COSIMA) on the orbiter, nucleus imaging, in-situ  microscopy and spectrometry (ÇIVA) of the samples taken on the lander, for which we also are responsible for the global scientific coordination (Lead Scientist). Rosetta is one of the central future activity pole for our laboratory. from a technical point of view, we have chosen to include the development into an inovative frame (miniaturised systems) ; from scientific point of view, it is an evolution towards a narrow link between Solar System small bodies remote observation and in situ characterisation by miniaturised, robotised instrumentation, strongly coupled with laboratory analysis of extraterrestrial samples.

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