Fifty years ago, the visionary astrophysicist Dr. Michel Maurette, who was once part of NASA’s Apollo team, led an expedition to the South Pole to find stardust frozen in the ice. The other scientists laughed and said he was crazy. They were certain that cosmic dust either burned up in the atmosphere or disintegrated too quickly to find. Finally, they asserted, IF he did stumble upon one, how would he be able to distinguish between an extraterrestrial particle from among billions of terrestrial ones?
But, the determined Monsieur Maurette ventured to Antarctica’s blue ice and, against all odds, did find micrometeorites. This opened up the scientific branch of micrometeoritics we know today and today we owe an incredible debt of gratitude to this extraordinary man.
Following this legendary discovery, Dr. Maurette initiated the Concordia Project, which now is led by his pupils Cecile Engrand and Jean Duprat. Today Dr. Maurette is retired and lives with his wife, Monique, in the south of France, where I met them.
Before leaving, I took a small dust sample from the street outside their house, and the subsequent microscopy revealed a beautiful fresh micrometeorite. Can you imagine it? The man who travelled to the end of the Earth to find find stardust, had it all along right outside his own door!
When I sent the photo of NMM 3330 to Dr. Maurette, he replied with enthusiasm and humor, “Congratulations on the idea and the feat, it has moved me deeply. This cosmic spherule picture is beautiful on so many levels. I find it very amusing to think that they were on the front door all along.”