A sample collector for robotic sample return missions II: Radiation tests

by Venechuk, E.; Franzen, M. A.; Roe, L. A.; Sears, D. W. G.

Sample return from small solar system objects is playing an increasingly important part in solar system exploration. Critical to such missions is a robust, simple, and economic sample collector. We have developed a collector such as this for near-Earth asteroid sample return missions that we have termed the Touch-and-Go Impregnable Pad (TGIP). The collector utilizes a silicone substrate that is pushed into the dust and gravel surface layer of the asteroid. As part of a systematic evaluation of the TGIP, we have investigated the resilience of this substrate to ionizing radiations. Several miniature versions of the collector, containing typically similar to 3 g of the collection substrate, were exposed to 0.564 MeV beta particles from a Sr-90 source and a 6 MeV electron beam in a linear accelerator to simulate the wide range of energies of solar and galactic ionizing radiation. Various radiation levels up to eight times greater than expected on a six-year asteroid mission (in the case of beta radiation) and 50 times greater than expected (in the case of the 6 MeV electron radiation) were administered to the substrate. After irradiation, the efficiency of the substrate in collecting samples of mock regolith was compared with that of collectors that had not been irradiated. No difference beyond experimental uncertainty was observed and we suggest that the operational TGIP will not be affected adversely by radiation doses expected during a typical six-year inner solar system mission.

Advances in Space Research
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1879-1948; 0273-1177