NASA scientists have just opened a lunar sample that had remained sealed since it was collected from the moon 50 years ago, a blog post from the space agency reveals.
The organization said it is opening the sample, one of the last unopened lunar samples from its Apollo missions, in preparation for the upcoming Artemis moon landing.
Uncover the history of moon
The lunar soil container is being opened at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston by the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES), which stores NASA’s space sample collection. The work is being carried out by the ApolloNext Generation Sapmle Analysis Program (ANGSA), with assistance from its partners at the European Space Agency.
“Understanding the geological history & evolution of lunar samples at Apollo landing sites will help us prepare for the types of samples that could be encountered during Artemis,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA science missions Directorate in Washington.
“Artemis aims to bring back cold & sealed samples from near lunar south pole,” Zurbuchen continued. “This is an exciting learning opportunity to understand the tools needed to collect & transport these samples, analyze them, and preserve them on Earth for future generations of scientists.
Apollo can opener
NASA kept many lunar samples collected by Apollo missions un-opened, knowing that science & technology would evolve, allowing future teams to gain more information when they opened their containers.
The container that is being opened now contains the ANGSA 73001 sample in a sealed tube that has been carefully stored in a protective outer vacuum tube and in controlled atmosphere environment at Johnson Space Center. In December, we reported that the European Space Agency’s state-of-the-art Apollo Can Opener machine will-be used to extract the materials from container. The team behind the sample analysis will puncture the vacuum seal & slowly collect all the gases inside in a week-long process. They will then remove the rocks & soil at some point later-by this spring.
In September last year, NASA’s Perseverance Rover collected its first rock core sample from Mars. The US space agency hopes to return this sample & others, to Earth at some-point in the 2030. Before that happens, NASA aims to sending humans to the Moon, and analysis of samples from these Apollo containers will help guide these future missions, which will collect more samples for future generations of scientists to unlock.