• Focused ion beam recovery of hypervelocity impact residue in experimental craters on metallic foils

      Graham, G. A.; Teslich, N.; Dai, Z. R.; Bradley, J. P.; Kearsley, A. T.; Hörz, F. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      The Stardust sample return capsule returned to Earth in January 2006 with primitive debris collected from Comet 81P/Wild-2 during the fly-by encounter in 2004. In addition to the cometary particles embedded in low-density silica aerogel, there are microcraters preserved in the aluminum foils (1100 series; 100 micrometers thick) that are wrapped around the sample tray assembly. Soda lime spheres (~49 micrometers in diameter) have been accelerated with a light gas gun into flight-grade aluminum foils at 6.35 km s^(-1) to simulate the capture of cometary debris. The experimental craters have been analyzed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDX) to locate and characterize remants of the projectile material remaining within the craters. In addition, ion beam-induced secondary electron imaging has proven particularly useful in identifying areas within the craters that contain residue material. Finally, high-precision focused ion beam (FIB) milling has been used to isolate and then extract an individual melt residue droplet from the interior wall of an impact. This has enabled further detailed elemental characterization that is free from the background contamination of the aluminum foil substrate. The ability to recover "pure" melt residues using FIB will significantly extend the interpretations of the residue chemistry preserved in the aluminum foils returned by Stardust.
    • Laboratory simulation of impacts on aluminum foils of the Stardust spacecraft: Calibration of dust particle size from comet Wild-2

      Kearsley, A. T.; Burchell, M. J.; Hörz, F.; Cole, M. J.; Schwandt, C. S. (The Meteoritical Society, 2006-01-01)
      Metallic aluminum alloy foils exposed on the forward, comet-facing surface of the aerogel tray on the Stardust spacecraft are likely to have been impacted by the same cometary particle population as the dedicated impact sensors and the aerogel collector. The ability of soft aluminum alloy to record hypervelocity impacts as bowl-shaped craters offers an opportunistic substrate for recognition of impacts by particles of a potentially wide size range. In contrast to impact surveys conducted on samples from low Earth orbit, the simple encounter geometry for Stardust and Wild-2, with a known and constant spacecraft-particle relative velocity and effective surface-perpendicular impact trajectories, permits closely comparable simulation in laboratory experiments. For a detailed calibration program, we have selected a suite of spherical glass projectiles of uniform density and hardness characteristics, with well-documented particle size range from 10 micrometers to nearly 100 micrometers. Light gas gun buckshot firings of these particles at approximately 6 km s^(-1) onto samples of the same foil as employed on Stardust have yielded large numbers of craters. Scanning electron microscopy of both projectiles and impact features has allowed construction of a calibration plot, showing a linear relationship between impacting particle size and impact crater diameter. The close match between our experimental conditions and the Stardust mission encounter parameters should provide another opportunity to measure particle size distributions and fluxes close to the nucleus of Wild-2, independent of the active impact detector instruments aboard the Stardust spacecraft.