Science

Moon rock samples opened after 40 years to be studied by NASA

A previously sealed rock sample brought back from the Moon in the year 1972 is opened by NASA, and it will be analyzed for the first time. The space agency has announced that on November 5th, the rock sample 73002 was opened, in conjunction with its Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) initiative, designed to use new technologies that were not around at the time the samples were collected. ANGSA program scientist Sarah Noble, Ph.D., said in a statement that “We are able to make measurements today that were just not possible during the years of the Apollo program, the analysis of these samples will maximize the science return from Apollo, as well as enable a new generation of scientists and curators to refine their techniques and help prepare future explorers for lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond”.

Astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt had brought sample 73002 from the Apollo 17. The rock will be split up into parts for study. Nasa said, “It may allow scientists to gain insight into the origin of the lunar polar ice deposits, as well as other potential resources for future exploration”. Another Sample 73001, which was also collected on Apollo 17, will also be studied. Charles Shearer, science co-lead for ANGSA, stated that “The findings from these samples will provide NASA new insights into the Moon, including the history of impacts on the lunar surface, how landslides occur on the lunar surface, and how the Moon’s crust has evolved over time, this research will help NASA better understand how volatile reservoirs develop, evolve and interact on the Moon and other planetary bodies.”

Francis McCubbin, NASA’s astromaterials curator at Johnson Space Center said that “Opening these samples now will enable new scientific discoveries about the Moon and will allow a new generation of scientists to refine their techniques to study better future samples returned by Artemis astronauts, our scientific technologies have vastly improved in the past 50 years, and scientists have an opportunity to analyze these samples in ways not previously possible.” NASA will be back to Mon in 2024 as part of its Atemis Program.

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Bruce Townsend

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, Associate Editor, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges. I’ve written, online, and in print, for Air & Space, Astronomy, Ars Technica, Discover, Drone360, Gizmodo, Popular Mechanics, and Washington.

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