About the Facility

The Planetary Nuclear Spectroscopy Laboratory contains full instrumentation for developing and testing all types of gamma-ray and neutron sensors that are used for planetary composition measurements. These sensors include multiple high-purity germanium detectors, various scintillator-based systems, and 3Hxe-based neutron sensors. The lab uses commercial electronics for operating and acquiring data from these sensors as well as various custom-built packages. Gamma-ray and neutron sensors are tested using various radioactive sources, which, when used with specialized material (reactor-grade graphite), can simulate the neutron energies that come from a planetary surface. The lab contains a neutron generator that can be operated at a remote site for testing sensors with high levels of neutrons and gamma rays. To approximate planetary materials, the lab houses simulated Martian and lunar soils as well as a variety of rock and meteorite samples. The laboratory is capable of housing the development of engineering and flight-model hardware.