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Scientists demonstrate speed, precision of in situ planetary dating device

SwRI is designing the CODEX instrument to use radioisotope dating techniques in situ to determine the age of rocks on other planets or moons. With fiver lasers and a mass spectrometer, the 20-inch-cube instrument is designed to vaporize tiny bits of rock and measure the elements present to pin down the rock’s age with previously unmet precision. Credit: Tom Whitaker, Southwest Research Institute Southwest Research Institute scientists have increased the speed and accuracy of a laboratory-scale instrument for determining the age of planetary specimens onsite. The team is progressively miniaturizing the Chemistry, Organics and Dating Experiment (CODEX) instrument to reach a size suitable for spaceflight and lander missions.

“In situ aging is an important scientific goal identified by the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey for Mars and the Moon as well as the Lunar and Mars Exploration Program Analysis Groups, entities responsible for providing the science input needed to plan and prioritize exploration activities,” said SwRI Staff Scientist Dr. F. Scott Anderson, who is leading CODEX development. “Doing this onsite rather than trying to return samples back to Earth for evaluation can resolve major dilemmas in planetary science , offers tremendous cost savings and enhances the opportunities for eventual sample […]

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