The first new AAS division in more than 30 years was introduced last week by the AAS. The new division is the Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). LAD's mission is to advance our understanding of the universe through the promotion of fundamental theoretical and experimental research into the underlying processes that drive cosmic evolution.
Dr. Scott Sandford of NASA-ARC made a trip to Japan in December 2011 to join Japanese colleagues at the SPring-8 cyclotron facility in order to study some of the particles returned from asteroid Itokawa by the Hayabusa spacecraft.
Dr. Tom Greene attended and chaired the conceptual design review (CoDR) of
the near-infrared multi-object spectrograph (NIRMOS) for the Giant
Magellan Telescope (GMT) in Pasadena on October 6 and 7. Other review team
members were from Caltech, Lick Observatory, NOAO, Swinburne University,
and the University of Chicago. If built, this instrument would be the most
capable near-infrared MOS on Earth and would rival the James Webb Space
Telescope. Six GMT instruments have now passed through CoDR, and the GMT
project will soon decide which ones will be funded for development.
On May 25, NASA announced the selection of its third New Frontier planetary science mission. The $800-million Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission will launch in 2016 and retrieve samples from the near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36 in the year 2020. The samples will be returned to Earth in 2023 and provide samples of the primeval materials from which our Solar System formed.