NASA’s first moon sample was collected nearly 50 years ago
NASA has been opening a vacuumed and aspirated lunar sample for nearly 50 years.
The mysterious specimen was collected during the US space agency’s last manned mission to the Moon in 1972.
The sample from the Apollo 17 mission will be exactly 50 years old on December 13 this year.
Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmidt collected a lunar sample by pushing a 14-inch tube into the lunar surface.
They also collected another unsealed sample.
Both tubes were filled with moon rocks and dust.
Both samples were returned to Earth, and the sample that was not vacuum sealed was opened in 2019.
The vacuum tube is more interesting because it can contain substances called “volatile matter”.
Volatiles are gases that evaporate at ordinary temperatures.
They had escaped from the unsealed lunar sample tube, but they could have been in the vacuum-sealed tube.
NASA waited until now to open the sealed sample because they wanted to take advantage of future technology.
“The agency knew that science and technology would advance and allow scientists to study materials in new ways to address new questions in the future,” explained NASA’s Laurie Gleese, director of the planetary science division. .
Ryan Ziegler, curator of the Apollo sample, added: “A lot of people are excited.
“Chip Shearer from the University of New Mexico proposed the project over a decade ago, and over the past three years two great teams have developed the unique equipment to make it possible.”
The exact process of opening the specimen has begun.
The outer seal was opened but the inner seal was still intact.
Scientists will first puncture the sample tube and collect any gases that may be trapped.
Once the gas is extracted, the soil and moon rocks will be removed.
Scientists plan to do this in late spring.
“Each component of the gas 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,” said Francesca MacDonald, who leads the project at the European Space Agency.
The painstaking work is done at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston by the Astronomical Materials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) division.
The center houses a selection of extraterrestrial samples collected by NASA.
This article originally appeared the sun It is reproduced here with permission.