Opening NASA lunar sample collected almost 50 years ago


NASA is opening a sample Moon that has been sealed under vacuum for nearly 50 years.

The mysterious sample was collected during the US space agency’s last manned mission to the Moon in 1972.

The sample of the Apollo 17 mission will be exactly 50 years old on December 13 this year.

Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt collected the lunar sample by pushing a 14-inch tube into the lunar surface.

They also took another sample that was unsealed.

Both tubes were filled with moon rock and dust.

Both samples were brought back to Earth and the one that was not vacuum sealed was opened in 2019.

The vacuum sealed tube is more exciting because it can contain so-called “volatile” substances.

Volatiles are gases that evaporate at normal temperatures.

One of the Apollo 17 astronauts used a metal pole to take a sample from the surface of the Moon in 1972.
NASA/Corbis via Getty Images

They would have escaped from the Moon’s unsealed sample tube, but they may be present in the vacuum-sealed one.

NASA waited until now to open the sealed sample because they wanted to take advantage of future technology.

Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, explained: “The agency knew that science and technology would evolve and allow scientists to study material in new ways to address new questions in the future. .”

Ryan Zeigler, Apollo’s sample curator, added, “A lot of people are excited.

“Chip Shearer from the University of New Mexico came up with the project over a decade ago, and over the past three years we’ve had two great teams developing the unique equipment to make it possible.”

The painstaking process of opening the sample has begun.

The outer seal has been opened but the inner seal is still intact.

Scientists will first puncture the sample tube and collect any gases that may be trapped.

Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (left) and Harrison H. 'Jack' Schmitt were part of the famous Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan (left) and Harrison H. ‘Jack’ Schmitt were part of the famous Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
HO pictures

After gas extraction, lunar soil and rocks will be removed.

Scientists plan to do this in late spring.

Francesca McDonald, who leads the project at ESA, said: “Each gaseous component analyzed can help tell a different part of the story of the origin and evolution of volatile compounds on the Moon and in the early solar system.”

NASA scientists are eager to learn more about the
NASA scientists are eager to learn more about the “volatile” gases inside samples from the Moon.
NASA/Corbis via Getty Images
NASA unveils an ancient sample of the Moon first collected during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
NASA scientists have been very careful in extracting gases from the ancient sealed samples of the Moon.
Robert Markowitz/NASA-Space Johnson

The painstaking work takes place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston by the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Sciences (ARES) Division.

The center houses a selection of extraterrestrial samples collected by NASA.

This article originally appeared on The sun and has been reproduced here with permission.


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