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Center Independent Research & Development: GSFC IRAD

In Situ Planetary Geochronology Technology

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This project's purpose was to determine whether a Pulsed Neutron Generator (PNG) could be used in an instrument that could perform in situ age dating of planetary material samples as part of a lander or rover payload for destinations in our Solar System.  The source of these fast neutrons is usually a nuclear reactor which is of course impractical for a flight instrument.  We are working to determine if another type of PNG can act as this fast neutron source in a space flight instrument. If the PNG can produce 14 MeV neutrons at a sufficient rate, enough K-39 can be converted to Ar-39 for the technique to work in situ.

Geochronology is the science of determining the age of rocks, fossils, and sediments.  The science of geochronology is the prime tool used to attempt to derive absolute age dates for all fossil assemblages and determine the geologic history of the Earth and extraterrestrial bodies.

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Project Duration

Technology Maturity (TRL)

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