NASA retrieves lunar samples collected 50 years ago from storage

(ORDO NEWS) — As a result of the Apollo series missions, a total of 2196 samples of lunar rocks were delivered to Earth. However, NASA has only recently opened a container containing one of these 50-year-old samples.

Throughout this period, some containers remained sealed; at one time, these measures were taken in order to preserve the samples unchanged for later study using new, more powerful methods of analysis.

This sample, codenamed 73001, was collected from the surface by astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in December 1972 as part of the Apollo 17 mission, the last mission in the series.

A container 35 centimeters long and 4 centimeters in diameter was used to take soil samples in the lunar Taurus-Littrow valley.

Only two samples were once sealed for long-term storage, and now, after opening sample 73001, only one sample of lunar soil remains sealed.

It could contain gases or volatile substances (water, carbon dioxide, etc.).

The aim of the study is to extract these gases, which are probably present only in very small quantities, and analyze them using spectrometric methods, the accuracy of which has improved significantly in recent years.

In early February, the outer protective container was removed. No lunar gases were found in this container. Then, on February 23, the scientists began a weeks-long operation to perforate the gas bleed container inside.

In the spring, a rock sample will be carefully extracted and divided into several samples, which will then be studied by various scientific teams.

The location on the lunar surface where this soil sample was taken from is of interest because the landslide took place there.

“It’s not raining on the Moon right now,” said Julian Gross, deputy curator of the Apollo mission. “And we don’t have a clear understanding of how landslides happen on the Moon.”

Gross hopes that studying sample 73001 will help answer that question.

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