Roger Harrington works on making a thin section in our @NASA_ARES Thin Section Lab

Roger Harrington, one of our @NASA_ARES Curation staff, is seen here as he works on polishing a sample in our Thin Section Lab.  To the left of Roger is a picture of Antarctic meteorite sample LAR 12011 and a petrographic thin section of this meteorite taken under polarized light. So what is a thin section?  A thin section is an extremely thin slice or sliver of a rock mounted onto a glass slide with epoxy.  They are prepared in order to help scientists investigate the textures and mineralogy of the rock using tools such as a polarizing petrographic microscope, scanning electron microscope, or an electron microprobe. This work is a part of petrology and helps to reveal the origin and evolution of the parent rock.  A thin section sample is approximately 30 micrometers (0.03 mm) thick – which is a little less than half the thickness of a human hair!  Petrographic thin section samples are available for check out by college and university professors.  For more information go to:  http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/Education/thinsections.cfm#

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The @NASA_ARES led Biomolecule Sequencer will facilitate important @Space_Station research

Principal investigator and @NASA_ARES scientist Aaron Burton has been working with team members from NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Ames Research Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies Inc. on the Biomolecule Sequencer (MinION) that is scheduled to head to the International Space Station this summer.  Sequencing is a powerful molecular biology technique that helps us to understand the molecular basis of biological activity at the level of DNA, RNA, and proteins, and with the analysis of sequence data we can identify organisms, and track how they respond to changes in their environment.  The objectives of the Biomolecule Sequencer are to provide proof-of-concept for the functionality and crew operability of a DNA sequencer in the space environment. Some of the capabilities that would be provided by incorporating sequencing into space exploration are in-flight microbial identification for crew and vehicle health assessments, monitoring changes at the DNA and RNA level in astronauts and microbes, and analyzing life based on DNA or DNA-like molecules on other worlds, if present. As mentioned in the “State of NASA” address by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in May, astronaut Kate Rubins will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) and plans to become the first person to perform DNA sequencing in space after she arrives at the ISS.

To read more about the Biomolecule Sequencer go to:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2181.html#overview

Watch a video interview with Dr. Aaron Burton at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g701qIxrMlU

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#ANSMET expedition complete! Team spent 5 weeks in #Antarctica searching for #meteorites!

#ANSMET 2015/2016 expedition complete! This amazing team, like so many others before them, spent five weeks in Antarctica (Miller Range) searching for meteorites in what most would consider bitter cold conditions. Think these team members would want to do this again next year?? Ask any one of them the next time you see them and see what they say! How about you – would you want to search for meteorites in Antarctica?

Now that this year’s mission is complete, the collected samples will be transported to our #NASA_Curation Meteorite Laboratory in Building 31 at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. We can’t wait to receive this year’s fabulous finds that through research and analysis, will help scientists better understand the history of our solar system! #RocksFromSpace

To read about this year’s 2015/16 Field Season, go to: http://caslabs.case.edu/ansmet/category/15-16/

(Images courtesy of Case Western Reserve University and the 2015/16 Field team)

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Biomolecule Sequencer MinION, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Will Perform the First-Ever DNA Sequencing in Space

Team members from the Biomolecule Sequencer payload toured our Meteorite Lab last week. Biomolecule Sequencer is a payload on the International Space Station (ISS) that will perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space. Sequencing on the ISS can inform real-time decisions for research, medical ops, and crew health. This can be used for functional testing for integration into robotics for Mars exploration missions, and eventually for astrobiology and search for life investigations. Interestingly enough, the sequencer being flown is called a MinION, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies. This is not to be confused with the movie Minions, which premiered in theaters this weekend!