Sample Requests, Allocations and Loans
Before any samples are allocated to a PI, a loan agreement between NASA and the PI must be established. This loan agreement is valid for 5 years, and is an umbrella agreement that covers loans of any meteorite materials during that period. At the end of the loan period, the PI must either renew the agreement or return the samples. The agreement outlines the responsibilities for the PI to provide a secure storage location for the sample, annual or regular inventory updates, and responsibility to return samples (if applicable) when the research has been completed. Samples will not be allocated to any PI without the Sample Loan Agreement completed. There is aloan agreement for scientists working in the US, and an loan agreement for scientists working outside of the US.
Categories of sample loans/allocations:
Antarctic meteorite sample loans fall into 5 categories:
Category A: Thin or thick section — non–destructive analysis. This category is for research using non-destructive techniques, "including, but not limited to" optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), standard electron microprobe analysis (EMPA), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, X-ray absorption near–edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy. These samples are expected to be returned at the completion of the research.
Category B: Thin or thick section — destructive analysis. This category is for research using destructive analytical techniques, such as secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), focused ion beam (FIB) extraction, laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS), and microdrilling. High–current X–ray mapping by electron beam methods may result in damage to a variety of minerals, and is considered to be destructive analysis. These samples are also expected to be returned at the completion of the research. The investigator is expected to return some documentation of what damage was done to the section, using the destructive analysis form.
Category C: Chip — non–destructive analysis. This category is for research using a small piece or chip of a meteorite and a non-destructive technique, such as magnetic spectroscopy, UV–Vis, FTIR, Raman spectroscopy, or SEM analysis. These samples are also expected to be returned at the completion of the research. If a sample is approved to be powdered, for example for a spectroscopy study, we expect powders to be returned. Powders can be used for additional studies, and can be allocated by MWG and JSC. This category also includes educational sample loans.
Category D: Chip — destructive analysis. This category is for research utilizing sample preparation techniques involving digestion of samples in acid or other dissolution, heating, or melting procedures. These samples are not expected to be returned at the completion of the research, but if material is remaining, it must be returned at the end of the loan period. In such cases, the investigator is expected to return some documentation of what damage was done to the sample.
Category E: Chip — irradiation analysis. This category is for research utilizing sample analysis techniques involving irradiation of samples. These samples are not expected to be returned at the completion of the research, but specific arrangements for such material should be made with the JSC curation group.
Sample loans are generally for five years, although a sample of a rare or popular meteorite, or one with limited material available, may be loaned for a shorter period, such as one year, three months, or even one month. PIs wishing to retain material for study more than 5 years may apply to extend their loan by writing a justification to the JSC curator.
Destructive Analysis of Thin or Thick Sections
Any procedure that is likely to result in destructive change to a thin or thick section must be approved in advance. Usually this is part of the original sample request. In this case, approval will be noted on the original loan paperwork. If a PI determines after sample allocation that he/she wishes to do destructive analysis, a formal request must be made to the NASA curator, who will refer the request to MWG for review, when appropriate. Decisions on such requests will be expedited, so as to not hold up research efforts — they usually can be made within several weeks. In such cases the request will be handled as an addendum to the original request for those samples.