How do scientists study asteroids? On April 1, 2021, NASA scientist Nicole Lunning joined us to chat about exciting missions to asteroids (OSIRIS-REx, Dawn & more!) and how scientists investigate samples returned by spacecraft as well as meteorites in laboratories at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
Dr. Nicole Lunning is the carbonaceous asteroid curator and deputy OSIRIS-REx curator within the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division of NASA Johnson Space Center. Nicole started at NASA in March of 2020 shortly after returning from collecting meteorites in Antarctica as part of 2019-2020 field team of the US-based Antarctic Search for Meteorites program (ANSMET). Prior to working at NASA, Nicole had postdoctoral positions at Rutgers University and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where she studied meteorites from the asteroid belt and the Moon, as well as conducting melting experiments to understand how early small planet-like bodies formed. Nicole earned her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2015 — her dissertation was on meteorites thought to have originated from Vesta and meteorites that we think are similar to rocks from asteroids Bennu and Ryugu.