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Gas chromatography for in situ analysis of a cometary nucleus V. Study of capillary columns' robustness submitted to long-term reduced environmental pressure conditions

, : Gas chromatography for in situ analysis of a cometary nucleus V. Study of capillary columns' robustness submitted to long-term reduced environmental pressure conditions. Journal of Chromatography. A 1368: 211-216

With the European Space Agency's Rosetta space mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a gas chromatograph, part of the COmetary Sampling And Composition (COSAC) experiment, travelled for about 10 years in the interplanetary medium before operating at the surface of the cometary nucleus in November 2014. During its journey in space, the instrument was exposed to the constraining conditions of the interplanetary medium, including reduced environmental pressures. In order to estimate the potential influence of this severe condition on the chromatographic capillary columns, their stationary phase and the subsequent separation capability, a set of flight spare columns were kept under reduced environmental pressure in the laboratory for the same duration as the probe sent to the comet. The columns' analytical performances were evaluated recently and compared to the original ones obtained just before the launch of the Rosetta probe. The results presented here show that the chromatographic performances of the spare chromatographic columns were not altered in time. From this result, it can be expected that the flight instrument will perform nominally for the analysis of the first cometary nucleus sample to be collected ever, and that the preparation of the interpretation of the data to be taken at the cometary surface nucleus can be done through calibration of these spare columns, and other spare components of the instrument.


PMID: 25441355

DOI: 10.1016/j.chroma.2014.09.075

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