[meteorite-list] RE: SIPI Students to Help ID Meteorites/Bob's Pluto concerns

From: Rhett Bourland <rbourlan_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:37:36 2004
Message-ID: <IOEBKAHMGFBDJMOFGDFNKEFCCDAA.rbourlan_at_evansville.net>

Just saw this story. Looks as if the Pluto mission may not be dead after


Rhett Bourland

-----Original Message-----
From: meteorite-list-admin_at_meteoritecentral.com
[mailto:meteorite-list-admin_at_meteoritecentral.com]On Behalf Of Verish,
Robert S
Sent: Wednesday, December 20, 2000 2:25 PM
To: Baalke, Ronald C
Cc: 'meteorite-list_at_meteoritecentral.com'
Subject: [meteorite-list] RE: SIPI Students to Help ID Meteorites

Hello Ron,

At first blush this seemed to be great news, but now I'm starting to see
some down sides to this story. I would sure like to get more information
about this before I firm up my opinion, because it has raised a number
questions for me.

Before I go any farther, I must admit that it is no secret that I have an
agenda about NASA not having a "meteorite recovery" program (outside of
Antarctica). During the next decade we're going to spend a billion dollars
to bring back to Earth a "pristine" Mars rock, but not one dollar will be
spent in an attempt to find those Mars rocks that are already here sitting
out in the deserts as meteorites. Add this additional $402,000 grant to
that $1billion total and we still don't have a "field" recovery program
(outside of Antarctica).

Now that I've got that off of my chest, let's get back to those questions
about this grant:

Why does the grant money, earmarked to train students to identify
meteorites, have to come from NASA's budget?

Why does it take $402,000 to do this?

Why doesn't NASA have a more comprehensive, nation-wide plan to enlist the
help of students?

Is there an equal opportunity for the other institutions and museums that
receive "meteorites for identification" to obtain a grant to enlist local
students in this effort? (UCLA has an equal number of "meteorites" sent to
them, and there is a community college in Watts that they can enlist the
help of those students.)

Is this grant going to cause envy among the other institutions and museums?

After a SIPI student identifies a submitted rock as being a meteorite, is
there any portion of the grant budgeted for follow-up field work or recovery

How far away is SIPI from UNM?

If I were to send my rock for identification to UNM, would it then be
forward to SIPI and have to "pass" the scrutiny of the students before I can
get an "expert" at UNM to look at my specimen? (Having been the victim of a
false-negative by a well-respected expert, this scenario of deferred
responsibility and delayed identification doesn't appeal to me.)

I don't expect you, Ron, to have an answer for all these questions, but if
you should come across any more information on this subject, I would sure
appreciate sharing it.

I hope my first question doesn't make me sound stingy, but in the wake of
the termination of the Pluto Express due to projected cost overruns and the
commitments to the numerous Mars programs here at JPL, these kinds of
questions will get asked. Closer to home, Ron, the Deep Space Network has
been levied with a new task to quickly build another network of Beam
Waveguide Antennas. This is going to cause a big bump in the budget.
Expect more scrutiny.

Also, Ron, you know that I've long been a booster of NASA's Educational
Outreach programs. I don't need to tell you about my involvement with the
conversion of Deep Space Station 12 to the Telescopes in Education Program.
I don't want to take away from NASA's involvement in this direction. I
would just like to see some expenditure of funds towards a more
comprehensive "meteorite recovery plan" that would bring together NASA, the
Department of the Interior, the Smithsonian Institution, and all the other
involved institutions and museums.

Oh yeah, Ron. Hope you have a Happy Holiday!
Bob V.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ron Baalke [mailto:baalke_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, December 19, 2000 10:05 AM
To: robert.verish_at_jpl.nasa.gov
Subject: SIPI Students to Help ID Meteorites


SIPI Students to Help ID Meteorites
By John Fleck
Albuquerque Journal
December 19, 2000

   With the help of some money from NASA, University of New Mexico
scientists plan to enlist students at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic
Institute in the search for meteorites.
   UNM's Institute of Meteoritics gets some 200 rocks a year from members of
the public who bring them in for analysis, thinking they might be
meteorites, according to institute scientist Horton Newsom.
   Most aren't, but the process of telling the good from the bad will offer
SIPI students a lesson in geology and the chance to help make the occasional
rare find, Newsom said.
   Thanks to a $402,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, UNM and SIPI will set up a Meteorite Identification
Laboratory next year at SIPI's Albuquerque campus.
   The students will learn how to help Newsom and his colleagues with the
endless job of sorting through the rocks brought in by the public, hunting
for real meteorites.
   Sometimes people bring in pieces of lava thinking they are a meteorite -
a rock that has fallen from space.
   Sometimes they are slag from old mines, or "iron mill balls" of metal
used in cement plant crushers.
   In about 80 percent of the cases, a quick look tells the scientists all
they need to rule out the possibility that the rock is a meteorite.
   The rest take more careful study, sometimes using powerful electron
microscopes at UNM.
   The NASA money will help SIPI students learn how to judge whether a rock
might be a meteorite, said Cathy Abeita, director of special programs at
   And there is a chance that one of the rocks they study will turn out to
have come from space.
   "We do find one or two a year," Newsom said.

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Received on Wed 20 Dec 2000 11:04:20 PM PST

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