The samples were found on the Antarctic ice shelf by Dr. William
Cassidy, a Universityof PittsburghgeologistworkinQ under a qrant from the NSF. Cassidy hypothesizedthat very large finds of meteoritesmight be discoveredin areas of the Antarctic where ancient, "blue ice," was
raised to the surface. Cassidy suggestedmeteoriteswhich fell on
Antarcticain centuries past could appear on the surface along with the ice.
The exact manner by which the ice and meteoritesmove to the surface from beneath hundreds of feet of snowpack is not well understood;
however,Cassidy found 310 meteorite fragments in a two-monthperiod this
past Decemberand January. Cassidy feels the fragmentsrepresentbetween 20 and 50 differentmeteorites. This is the most concentratedfind ever
collected. There are at present fragmentsfrom an estimated2,000 meteoriteswhich have been found. Because of the exceptionalpreserving
conditionsin the extreme cold and dry environmentof Antarctica,the 310 sampleswhich Cassidy found are consideredthe most uncontaminated,
near-pristinemeteorite samples ever collected. To insure that the samples would be collected properly,the NSF and NASA's Lunar CuratorialFacility in Houston, equippedCassidy
with special sterile equipmentused to handle the lunar sample collection.
The meteorite processingfacilityat the space center will receive the samples,and, using glove-boxesfirst used to handle material from the moon, will document the samples and make initial characterization studies of the fragments,which will be weighed and photographed.
Followingthe initial documentation,the samples might also be freeze-driedto remove any water-ice trapped in the sample. A mold
might also be taken of the fragments. The sampleswill then be stored in dry nitrogengas in special cabinets.
A special committeecomprised of members of the NSF, the SmithsonianMuseum of Natural History, NASA, and Dr. Cassidy's team is
expected to produce a detailed plan for a more systematicexamination of the samples.