The analysis of a material contemporary of the origin of the Solar System can provide constraints on the physical conditions, the isotopic and molecular elementary compositions as well as the kinetics of evolution of the protosolar nebula until the accretion of the protoplanetary bodies. Before 2000, IAS has started a grain collection program of identified cometary origin (COMET experiment on MIR station) and laboratory analysis of primitive extraterrestrial material (micrometeorites and meteorites, stratospheric grains). In particular, we have developed laboratory tools dedicated to the manipulation of microscopic grains, and non-destructive measurements in the X and IR using synchrotron radiation (LURE then SOLEIL).
Most of our activity in recent years was linked to the ESA/Rosetta mission: launched in February 2004, it had a rendez-vous with the nucleus of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko to study the cometary material and the processes of formation and the short-term evolution by observations performed from a heliocentric distance of 3 AU to the perihelion of 1 AU. ROSETTA investigated the comet nucleus with unparalleled spatial resolution, while the landed Philae landed on its surface (after some twists ...) to conduct for the first time in situ observations and analyzes of samples. Rosetta has offered the ability to identify in its diversity all components of the cometary nucleus (grains, ice, organic), remnants of the original material of the Solar System. The participation of our team focused on the analysis and the morphology of the grains thanks to the COSIMA instrument (whose camera was developed with the IAS) on the orbiter, and the imaging of the nucleus thanks to Philae lander, for which we provided global scientific coordination. From the technical point of view, we chose to make innovative developments (miniaturized systems); scientifically, it seals an evolution towards a closer link between remote space observation of small bodies of the Solar System, and in situ characterization by miniaturized robotic instrumentation, strongly coupled with laboratory analysis of extraterrestrial samples.
The next step is to study on-site samples of the Asteroid 162173 Ryugu surface using the MicrOmega instrument onboard the Mascot lander, which was transported by the Hayabuza-2 probe.